Saturday, January 23, 2021

Masks As Eating Disorder Art Therapy

May 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Body Image, Featured

Graciously re-posted courtesy of

Recently in my Eating Disorder Recovery Group Therapy, I asked the members to design masks.  I devised this activity from D.W. Winnicott’s ideal of the “False Self.”  Winnicott believed when one grows up in an environment where the child’s needs are not recognized, the child develops a false self to protect one’s real identity from the everyday conflicts they face.  The false self can appear very successful and intact to “mask” one’s true insecurities, flaws, and feelings.

I have found with many of my eating disorder patients, they often appear as if they “have everything together” and no one knows about their eating disorders.  This activity has them look at how the outside world perceives them vs. how they perceive themselves.  This process helps members better integrate the two parts of their personalities by teaching them emotional identification and self-regulation techniques.

Below, I am going to share pictures and descriptions of two of the members’ masks, which will artistically explain the “false self, real self” dilemma eating disorder patients suffer with.

1)  This mask was done by a 23 year old female who has been struggling with an eating disorder for almost 8 years.  The outside of the mask depicts a woman who is “inspired, original, and passionate.”  In the inside of the mask, however, this patient created a collage of broken images swirled and messy.  This woman noted to the outside world she appears artistic and ambitious.  When she is home at night, however, with her eating disorder, she feels confused, overwhelmed, and chaotic.  She noted she fears others will discover her secret and realize she is a “fraud.”  As a result, she clings tightly to her eating disorder for fear of losing her “perfect” identity.

AP's Mask

VG 3

2)  The second mask I am going to highlight was done by a 26 year old woman who has been struggling with her eating disorder since middle childhood.  On the outside of her mask, she used words such as “Driven, Social, Sassy, Outgoing, Party and Funny” to describe herself.  In the inside of the mask, she used words such as “Complicated, Attitude, Regrets, Perfectionist, Over Weight, Lost, Under Motivated, Under Accomplished.”  She also drew all over a woman’s body.  One can see from the different words that were chosen how this woman portrays a fun and “put together” mask to the world.  In the inside, she does not believe what she portrays.  She does not feel accomplished or positive about her body.  Everything she chose for the inside of the mask indicates how much she does not like herself.

VG's Mask


AP's Mask 2















One can see from these two masks how different the images these woman portray to the outside world are different than how they feel inside.  Through our work in group, the members have been learning to integrate the two personalities in order to feel more authentic and regulated with their identities.

Masks As Eating Disorder Art Therapy, by Allison Jupiter

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