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Background:The prevalence of the three main eating disorders (EDs) anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED) is increasing, and a growing number of patients with EDs is seeking professional help. Thus, there is a need for additional treatment strategies in EDs. The aim of this review was to summarize the literature on the benefits and risks of music as well as the evidence for its therapeutic application in people with EDs.

Methods: Following the PRISMA guidelines, we performed a systematic literature review on scientific studies on the effect of music in people with or at risk for EDs using PubMed and the Web of Science database. The search terms used were: “music”, “music therapy”, “eating disorders”, “anorexia nervosa”, “bulimia nervosa” and “binge eating disorder”.

Results: 16 out of 119 identified and screened articles qualified as scientific studies involving a total of 3,792 participants. They reported on the use of music or music therapy in individuals with or at risk of AN and BN, but not BED. In inpatients with AN, listening to classical music was beneficial to food consumption. Singing in a group reduced post-prandial anxiety in AN inpatients and outpatients. Vodcasts which also included positive visual or autobiographical stimuli helped BN patients with anxiety and body image perception. Songwriting and sessions with a Body Monochord helped with the processing of therapeutically relevant topics inAN. Watching music videos, however, reinforced body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, bodyweight concerns, preoccupation withphysical appearance in pre-teenage and teenage girls, and drive for muscularity in adolescent boys.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the therapeutic application of music may be beneficial in patients with AN and BN. However, the availability of studies with a rigorous randomized controlled trial (RCT) design is scarce.


This paper published in the Psychiatria Danubina Autumn/Winter 2020 issue at

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