The University of Melbourne
ISPS poster version3.pdf (526.83 kB)

Music, Eating Disorders, and Addictive Behaviour

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posted on 2023-08-03, 10:10 authored by Hannah M. TaylorHannah M. Taylor


Music is generally known to be pleasurable by those in a healthy population, but how is music experienced by those with eating disorders? As anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are rising in prevalence, a rise exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the urgency to understand and consider interventions for these mental illnesses is intensifying. While music therapy is available as a treatment for each of these disorders, few studies of rigorous design investigate how music is used or experienced by people with eating disorders.

The purpose of this presentation is to share synthesised research on the current state of knowledge in both eating disorder and music literature. Such a synthesis is important for understanding any benefits or risks music use might pose to this population. Pleasure and reward are key themes that have an impact on the music experience, and similarities and differences between eating behaviour and addictive behaviour are considered.

Synthesis of inter-disciplinary knowledge is essential for understanding how music is used and experienced by people with eating disorders. A systematic literature review was conducted which found a paucity of literature investigating this. This presentation explores music and eating disorders in more depth and proposes a theoretical model that connects these areas with pleasure, reward, and addictive behaviour, as a foundation for future research seeking to understand interactions between these elements.

A deeper understanding of how people with eating disorders engage with and experience music may have diagnostic implications in the future and will support clinicians and researchers in subsequently devising appropriate interventions. Once music listening behaviour is understood in this population, music playing experiences can be designed, as appropriate. This knowledge will also provide a foundation for future research to enhance our understanding of pleasure from music and functions of the reward system in our brains.