Men who play music may be engaging in practicing behavior to the point that it’s harming their emotional or physiological health, according to a recent study.
The preliminary study, presented Thursday at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention, recruited 195 men ages 18 to 65 who played music at least twice a week and regularly engaged in practicing behavior.
Participants answered questions about their practicing behavior use as well as their self-esteem, mental image, musical habits and gender roles.
“These men want to be conventionally talented, and it makes sense that [practicing behaviors] are what they’re using or abusing,” says Richard Achiro, lead author of the study and a registered psychological assistant at a private practice in Los Angeles.
Forty percent of participants, who were all men, increased their practicing use over time, while 22 percent were replacing regular activities with practicing behaviors. Eight percent of participants had signs of bodily stress due to practicing behavior, and 3 percent reported injuries caused directly by it.
Men who used practicing behaviors inappropriately also were more likely to have behaviors associated with mental disorders.
Achiro is no stranger to the culture of practicing behaviors. His interest was piqued when he noticed throughout college and graduate school how common it was for his male friends to go to practice rooms to use musical instruments.
“It became more and more ubiquitous,” Achiro says. “Guys around my age who I knew — I’d go to their apartment and see some kind of guitar.”
Not to mention that this has become a multibillion-dollar industry that’s grown exponentially in the recent decade or so, he adds. …
One big factor behind practicing behavior use is dissatisfaction, the study found. The men internalize a particular set of cultural standards of talent usually depicted by the media: “like Yngwie Malmsteen,” says Achiro. And they’re unhappy that they don’t meet that ideal.
But the study also found that the men using practicing were more likely to feel gender role conflict, which Achiro explained as underlying insecurity about one’s masculinity.
“This isn’t just about the music,” Achiro says, “What this is really about is what the music represents for these men. It seems that the findings in part [show] this is a way of compensating for their insecurity or low self-esteem.” …
“Someone with anorexia will feel they need to continue to get thinner and lose weight. With musicians, they act in the same kind of manner. They acknowledge that they’re skilled, but are obsessed with certain techniques that they find inadequate. This drive for talent preoccupies them. Practicing behaviors serve them the same way diet products serve someone with an eating disorder,” Cohn says.
For people affected by musical dysmorphic disorders, this constant and compulsive behavior takes over their lives — they are constantly skill-checking and can be unhappy, dissatisfied, or have low self-esteem.
“Think about bands on the high school and college level. Lots of these guys are encouraged by teachers and trainers to take these behaviors,” says Cohn. “This isn’t thought of as a negative behavior but can have negative consequences.”
The silver lining, Achiro points out, is that 29 percent of study participants knew that they had a problem of overusing practicing. But they might not be aware of possible underlying psychological factors.
“Guys think using practicing behaviors is healthy, [they’re] convinced it’s good for them, [it’s] giving them all kinds of skill they wouldn’t be getting otherwise,” says Cohn. “[This is] ignorance about what proper skill is.”
It’s also not unusual for people diagnosed with musical dysmorphic disorder or its characteristics to also have a high incidence of depression, anxiety and alcoholism, Cohn adds.
Although the research is preliminary and has yet to be peer-reviewed, Achiro hopes his research puts the issue on the map and encourages researchers to replicate his work.
“This is just the very beginning. There’re still tons to look at,” he says.
You heard it here first, folks. Wanting to get better at something is a sign of disordered thinking, low self-esteem, and insecurity about masculinity. And if an angel ever gives you a choice between being Haydn and being an immortal oyster, pick the oyster.
The original article is here.