Many studies have evidenced the beneficial effects of music therapy in patients with psychological disorders. It has been demonstrated that patients with mental disorders perceive the expressiveness of the music the same way than without mental illness. The results support that the music is a good therapeutic modality for individuals with mental illness.
Studies show that patients with severe mental illness have special difficulties in expression and communication and showed rejection in relationships. Therefore, in music therapy, patients will be able to be displayed themselves in a different context, favoring the expression of each one. The music therapist will be the facilitator and communication bridge.
Music can specifically address issues related to emotion and relationship. Therefore, it seems likely that music therapy may be appropriate, specially, in the treatment of negative symptoms in schizophrenia. This therapy will have significant effects on the patients when there are a sufficient number of sessions. Music therapy, as an adjunct to standard care, helps patients with schizophrenia to improve their general condition and their mental state. Music therapy can be used as a form of social communication and the musical activities should act as socializing, promoting the interaction between people.
Here are five conditions for which music therapy has been studied, supported by good scientific evidence:
Autism is a brain disorder that is associated with a wide range of developmental problems, especially in communication and social interaction. According to the American Psychiatric Association, autism is classified as a type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These disorders are characterized by problems with communication, social interaction, as well as unusual, repetitive behaviors. Some professionals use a broader term, called pervasive development disorder (PDD), to describe autism. In addition to autism, there are four other disorders that qualify as PDDs: Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Rett syndrome.
People who have autism spectrum disorders often show a heightened interest and response to music. This may aid in the teaching of verbal and nonverbal communication skills and in establishing normal developmental processes.
Dementia refers to a loss of cognitive function (an intellectual process resulting in an understanding, perception, or awareness of one's thoughts and ideas). Dementia can be caused by changes in the brain such as those associated with disease or trauma. The changes may occur gradually or quickly. Cognition is the act or process of thinking, perceiving, and learning. Cognitive functions that may be affected by dementia include decision making, judgment, memory, spatial orientation, thinking, reasoning, and verbal communication. Dementia may also result in behavioral and personality changes, depending on the area(s) of the brain affected.
In older adults with Alzheimer's, dementia, and other mental disorders, music therapy has been found to reduce aggressive or agitated behavior, reduce symptoms of dementia, improve mood, and improve cooperation with daily tasks, such as bathing. Music therapy may also decrease the risk of heart or brain diseases in elderly dementia patients.
Depression or depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. Depression is considered a mood disorder. Depression affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about life situations. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, depressive disorders are persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual's thoughts, behavior, mood, activity, and physical health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
There is evidence that music therapy may increase responsiveness to antidepressant medications. In elderly adults with depression, a home-based program of music therapy may have long-lasting effects. In depressed adult women, music therapy may lead to reductions in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and depressed mood. Music therapy may also be beneficial in depression following total knee replacement surgery or in patients undergoing hemodialysis.
There is evidence that music played to the womb during late pregnancy may lead to children being more responsive to music after birth. Soothing music may help newborns be more relaxed and less agitated. Pre-term newborns exposed to music may have increased feeding rates, reduced days to discharge, increased weight gain, and increased tolerance of stimulation. They may also have reduced heart rates and a deeper sleep after therapy.
Insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up too early in the morning. It is a common health problem that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy. Long-term insomnia can cause an individual to feel tired, depressed or irritable, have trouble paying attention, learning, and remembering, and not be able to perform fully on the job or at school. Severe insomnia can result in neurochemical (brain chemical) changes that may cause problems such as depression and anxiety, further complicating the insomnia.
In older adults, music may result in significantly better sleep quality as well as longer sleep duration, greater sleep efficiency, shorter time needed to fall asleep, less sleep disturbance, and less daytime dysfunction. There is also evidence of benefit in elementary-age children or stable preterm infants. Music therapy may also be as effective as chloral hydrate in inducing sleep or sedation in children undergoing EEG testing.