More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Music therapy may ease depression
January 25, 2008

Therapist may be able to use music to help some patients fight depression and improve, restore and maintain their health, states a Systematic Review from The Cochrane Library.

About 121 million people world-wide are believed to suffer from depression. This can be seen in disturbed appetite, sleep patterns and overall functioning as well as leading to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness and guilt. It can lead to suicide and is associated with 1 million deaths a year.

Drugs and psychotherapy are common treatments, but Cochrane researchers set out to see whether there was evidence that music therapy could deliver benefits.

After searching the international literature, they identified five studies which met their criteria. Four of these reported greater reduction in symptoms of depression among people who had been given music therapy than those who had been randomly assigned to a therapy group that did not involve music. The fifth study, however, did not find this effect.

"While the evidence came from a few small studies, it suggests that this is an area that is well worth further investigation and, if the use of music therapy is supported by future trials, we need to find out which forms have greatest effect," says lead author Anna Maratos, an Arts Therapist who works in the Central and Northwest London Foundation NHS Trust, London, UK.

"The current studies indicate that music therapy may be able to improve mood and has low drop-out rates," says Maratos.

"It is important to note that at the moment there are only a small number of relatively low quality studies in this area, and we will only be able to be confident about the effectiveness of music therapy once some high quality trials have been conducted," she added.

Source: Maratos AS, Gold C, Wang X, Crawford MJ. Music therapy for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;1:CD004517. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub2. [Full text]
from personal experience i can say music played an important part in my recovery. it distracts the brain from doing all the negative rumination.

Daniel E.
Biased Emotional Preferences in Depression
Music and Medicine Journal
April 2011


Depression is a highly prevalent mood disorder, which has been associated with low levels of energetic arousal, delays in approach and avoidance processes, and problems expressing and regulating negative emotions such as anger. We designed a novel experiment to test the hypothesis that depressed patients' preferences for emotional stimuli also demonstrate this tendency. To investigate how depressed patients differ in their preferences for music excerpts, both healthy (n = 30) and depressed (n = 79) participants were presented with 2 sets of 30 musical excerpts that represented the basic emotions (anger, sadness, and happiness), as well as different points on the 2-dimensional model of emotions (valence and energetic arousal). Depressed patients were found to dislike music that was highly energetic, arousing, or angry, which is assumed to be related to their problems with emotion regulation. The present study has practical implications for the use of music and music therapy in the treatment of depression.


...Why might depressed patients dislike music with high energetic arousal? One symptom of depression is a lack of energy (see eg, Beck Depression Inventory), which has been related to problems of energy management in depression. A dysfunction in optimal energy management (homeostasis) has been linked to hypoactivation in the left frontal and hyperactivation in the right frontal lobes of depressed patients. Left forebrain activity has been associated with physical and mental energy enrichment and correlates with social engagement, whereas right forebrain activity has been associated with physical and mental energy expenditure, and correlates with depression. In the current study, we used music examples that exhibited high energetic arousal, but which were neutral concerning valence and tension. In other words, it is the high level of energy in particular that depressed patients disliked. High energetic arousal has been associated to approach motivation and behavior. In depression, this system is impaired, and depressed patients suffer from a loss of physical and mental energy. Therefore, it is understandable that depressed patients might not prefer stimuli with a high energetic arousal, because it is the opposite to their own physical and mental state and challenges their dysfunctional energy management system.

...Music is a powerful mood inducer, and there is evidence that it improves depressed patients’ clinical state and mood, and even attenuates frontal EEG asymmetry in depressed adolescents. Our findings concerning depressed patients’ dislike of examples that manifest high energetic arousal and anger could be used systematically in music therapy practice...This would gradually help the depressed patients to learn to use more beneficial emotion regulation strategies such as reappraisal and self-disclosure.
I definitely find music very therapeutic. It also helps me paint, or do my housework. I've even recently downloaded relaxation breathing techniques from iTunes, which is more instructional, though. I'm a bit out of practice.
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