February is all about Eating Disorders Awareness. In this newsletter we will discuss some of the underlying influencers that have the potential to lead to Eating Disorders and how these can be lessened through music therapy.
According to www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, eating disorders are “mental and physical illness that can affect people of every age, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group. National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.” As research shows, eating disorders are more common than people think. In another section on this website, they provide a list of risk factors that have the potential to lead to eating disorders. This idea of risk factors is a new concept and one that I’m sure not many people have really thought about. The website goes into biological, psychological, and social factors that may be influencing for individuals, and for the purpose of our newsletter we are going to focus on the psychological and social components.
Perfectionism, body image dissatisfaction, personal history of anxiety disorder, and behavioral inflexibility are all risk factors listed on the National Eating Disorders website as potential psychological risk factors. When working with individuals who are trying to work through an eating disorder music therapists can definitely work on coping skills to help, but to really see change we have to work on the root of the problems, which is where these risk factors and knowing underlying issues that cause the eating disorders is essential. Music has the powerful and life-changing ability to help people make progress and grow in the most difficult situations. It has the ability to affect us on the inside and touch our hearts and souls. Through songwriting, improvisation, lyric analysis, and many other interventions, individuals going through these disorders are able to work their way through their pain, body image struggles, and anxiety to get past the disorder and start the journey to becoming healthy again.
Similarly, social risk factors include weight stigma, bullying, appearance ideal internalization, acculturation, limited social networks, and historical trauma are all listed as social risk factors for individuals (www.nationaleatingdisorders.org). Bullying and the social message that skinny is good…the thinner the better… can lead to such negative images of the self that are so harmful and devastating to many. As stated before, these negative perceptions of body image don’t just affect a specific type of person, but can really be harmful to a wide range of people not dependent on race, age, or gender. As board certified music therapists, we have the training to be able to utilize music to help individuals through these issues. Similar interventions as described above can also be utilized to help people suffering from this condition to heal and move past these issues to progress into mentally and physically healthy human beings.
Eating disorders can be very complex and there isn’t enough time (or space in this case) to write about all of the various levels and interventions that can be beneficial for this clientele. If you have more questions or thoughts on this topic, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can continue the conversation!