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Drumming as Therapy for Eating Disorders

“I feel connected to the inside and outside like I haven’t in a long time. Playing the drums was like speaking words I was holding back. I was absolutely free from the eating disorder for a whole hour.”

African drummer and researcher at St. Paul Hospital in Canada has been using drums as a form of treatment in the hospital’s In-Patient Eating Disorders program. Lyle Povah, also a recording artist, writer and educator, explains “The powerful vibrations created by the drums are felt in the body,” says Povah. “Our research suggests that it can assist in bringing out people’s emotions, which can help increase their well being and distract them from their eating disorder thoughts.”

“If a person with an eating disorder discovers through this process that their obsessive thinking about food can be interrupted and they can become in contact with who they are, then that is the beginning of recovery.”

The drumming usually starts after breakfast, which is a high risk time for eating disorder behaviors. The team looked at the patients’ stress levels both before and after and found that drumming helped reduce overall stress and anxiety for the majority. At least initially, the program is effective, at least as a supplement to other forms of treatment.