Many people with eating disorders struggle to connect with their bodies , but can dance movement therapy help with this? The disconnect between mind and body is what mental health professionals call “dissociation.” Dissociation can look a little different for everyone. Some signs of dissociation include feeling your surroundings aren’t real or that your body isn’t yours.
Healing the disconnect between mind and body can be an important aspect of recovery. There are a few reasons people with disordered eating tend to disconnect from their bodies. It is hard to stay connected to your body if you are engaging in behavior that is unnatural for the body, such as restricting or self-induced vomiting. It’s hard to be comfortable with your body if you aren’t connected to it.
Dance Movement Therapy can help with this. Here are two main ways that dance movement therapy can help individuals become comfortable with their body during eating disorder recovery:
Improve Body Image
Negative body image is one of the common features of eating disorders. Dance Movement Therapy is effective in helping individuals improve their body image . This treatment approach helps people find joy in movement and reconnect to their bodies.
Enjoying your body for its functions, such as movement, can help improve overall body satisfaction .
Awareness of Emotions
People with eating disorders are more likely to be unaware of their emotions . Eating disorders are often an attempt to cope with upsetting feelings . Developing emotional awareness can help with the recovery process.
This ability to identify and express feelings can help individuals learn appropriate coping skills instead of relying on eating disorder behaviors. Research shows that Dance Movement Therapy is effective in helping people gain insight into their own emotions .
Dance Movement Therapy aims to help people connect with their emotions through movement, breathing exercises, and connection with other group members and the therapist . This is shown to be helpful in improving people’s ability to connecting with and dealing with strong emotions.
Feeling comfortable with emotions and knowing how to deal with them can help someone stay in tune with themselves. Remaining connected to your own emotional experience can help you feel more comfortable with yourself overall.
Dance Movement Therapy offers an opportunity for healing and behavior change that is different than traditional forms of therapy, such as talk therapy. Reconnecting mind and body can be difficult, but Dance Movement Therapy offers an enjoyable and promising way to regain this connection .
 Savidaki, M., Demirtoka, S., Rodríguez-Jiménez, R.M. (2020). Re-inhabiting one’s body: A pilot study on the effects of dance movement therapy on body image and alexithymia in eating disorders. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(22), 1-20.  Christensen, K.A. & Haynos, A.F. (2020) A theoretical view of interpersonal emotion regulation in eating disorders: Enhancing knowledge by bridging interpersonal and affective dysfunction. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(21), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-020-00298-0
About the Author:
Samantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published August 19, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on August 19, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC