Arts Therapies Brings Hope for Disordered Eating

Arts Therapies Brings Hope for Disordered Eating

Posted by music on October 8, 2009

Psychological factors often drive us to unhealthy eating behaviours such as overeating, irregular eating, unhealthily restricting food intake, etc. Disordered eating behaviours can be triggered and sustained by life stress, one’s concerns towards body image, or even residual feelings from past events that had long been forgotten.

Though it may not come to an individual's consciousness, a person’s feeling of lacking control over one’s life as well as the person’s interpersonal connections play important roles in disordered eating behaviours 1.

A young woman who had participated in previous research concluded that her eating behaviours had been sustaining her during "life experiences that were difficult to control, extremely stressful, and socially isolating" 1.

Below are some factors that are believed to be significant in the adopting and sustaining of disordered eating habits

  • Social isolation
  • Perfectionism and high self expection
  • Having judgmental or over-caring parents or significant others
  • Feeling of loneliness, sadness, failure, and losing control over one's life

To tackle disordered eating behaviours, apart from professional dietary interventions, one might want to take a step to deal with it inside out. For instance, one could try building meaningful relationships to reduce the effect of social isolation. Some people may experience intimate interpersonal relationships as overwhelming, in this case, one can try starting with engaging relationships that require less intimate interchange such as getting involved in healthy activities with others; ie. joining a choir, or a Bible study group etc.

Every individual has his or her personal conscious or subconscious factors that sustain disordered eating behaviours. Therefore, it is also important to allow space for exploring any dysfunctional interpersonal relationships in life, stressful events, past or current experiences, source of pressure, control issues, etc.

A confidential therapeutic space in the form of talk therapy or an Art or Music Psychotherapy setting would be particularly valuable in facilitating this process and enabling the participant to get the most benefits out of it.


1.   Geraldine, B. (2007) Disordered Eating: Young Women’s Search for Control and Connection. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.

By Emma Mak
Director, Music Therapsist, The Hong Kong Music Therapy Centre

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