Art as form of therapy for mental disorders like anxiety, depression

Buse Keskin

ISTANBUL: Art is generally considered a vast field without limitations. Generally, people tend to brand every work as “a work of art” or only qualify a work that is created with a classical technique as an art piece.

However, if we effort to perceive art as a concept that is an expression of intense emotions, we turn it into an occupation that everyone can relate to.

On the other hand, anxiety and depression appear to be the most frequent mental disease for the modern man. As a solution, doctors generally consider prescribing antidepressants. Although they contribute to the healing process in some cases by changing the chemistry of the brain, they also cause many complications by damaging the body in the long run.

At this point, including art and similar activities in the healing process seem to become prevalent in therapies as it helps to express those “intense emotions” that mostly distress us. The creativity process as means of self-expression contributes to the sense of relief and dispels the shyness brought by the verbal articulation of problems.

I had a chance to experience Turkish marbling art in Moodist Psychiatry Hospital located in Istanbul’s Üsküdar district and received first-hand information on how these activities contribute to the healing process of the patients. At first, patients think that they are not doing it right, or they think that they don’t have the talent to perform yet, once they start, they create pieces they don’t even imagine. Especially marbling art, a complex but easy-to-start art form, is a perfect option for those who wish to seek relief over creating a product as it increases self-esteem and a sense of achievement, providing ownership of successes.

Combination of works created by the patients, Istanbul, Türkiye, Sept. 21, 2022. (Photo courtest of Moodist Istanbul)
Combination of works created by the patients, Istanbul, Türkiye, Sept. 21, 2022. (Photo courtest of Moodist Istanbul)

Performing art also helps to engage the mind, body, and spirit in many ways, especially for mental restlessness that keeps the mind occupied with relatively “unreal” problems all the time. Moreover, empowering the individual by including them in a social environment also contributes to the patient’s well-being in developing confidence throughout the process, psychologist Irem Bengü Yılmazcan said.

Besides art, some unconventional forms are also followed in the hospital, such as juggling and virtual reality (VR) exposure. However, juggling was an especially fascinating performing art of all, as it is not widely practiced within the field. As trainer Erol Yılmaz gave a short training session explaining its benefits, he stated that juggling enhances core strength and as its an occupational activity, its rhythmic structure helps the mind to focus on one single activity improving hand-eye coordination.

“People find it intimidating thinking that they will not be achieving doing it. When they get used to practicing, juggling balls become inseparable parts of their lives as it helps them to relax,” Yılmaz said.

VR experience, on the other hand, helps patients encounter their fears and fight their addictions through simulated reality, psychologist Ayşe Sümeyra Aydoğdu explained.

Courtesy: Dailysabah