The Bipolar Brain – A Radio Station You Can’t Turn Off
Ah, the human brain. It’s a wondrous thing. It calculates, it categorizes, it makes connections and it remembers the square root of 144. I’m constantly awed by its power.
But one of the annoying things that can happen to a brain is that somehow, a song gets stuck in it. Somehow, even though its great power and ability, the catchy hook of the latest pop song gets stuck inside some errant neurons and plays over and over.
And this causes a lot more trouble in my bipolar brain than it does for others.
I Have Justin Bieber Stuck in My Head; I’m Thinking of Cutting it Off
I find myself with songs stuck in my head all the time. Like, every day, all the time. And they aren’t songs that I like or even songs I have heard that day they are just random songs that somehow fight their way into my consciousness long enough to create a groove there. And once they’re there? Good luck getting them out.
My Bipolar Brain and Earworms
According to Wikipedia, this phenomenon is known as an “earworm,” “musical imagery repetition” or “involuntary music imagery.” In Germany, they have a special word for it – Ohrwurn – “a type of song that typically has a high, upbeat melody and repetitive lyrics that verge between catchy and annoying.”
Earworms are completely natural, of course, and apparently, 98% of people experience them. Women seem to experience earworms for longer and are more irritated by them. Songs with lyrics account for about three-quarters of earworms.
My Earworm Moved In
Unlike the experience that most people have, I have earworms much of the time. Sometimes it’s one song that repeats for days and sometimes it’s many songs in a day, but predominantly they are there.
I have found no research suggesting people with bipolar disorder have more incidence of earworms than others but there is research that says people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) do and as I’ve remarked previously, OCD and bipolar disorder may be linked. And earworms on hypomania? That is your brain on extra-crispy-crazy.
Admittedly, it is a very obsessive thing my brain does. It feels like an obsession with the invisible. I can never see it so it never goes away. And I find this highly troubling.
Like, highly troubling. Like I could see someone wanting to ice pick his or herself just to make the blooming song in his or her head shut the heck up. It’s that much of an anxious obsession. It’s crazy-driving obsession. Sometimes I feel like I’m begging my brain to think of anything else but it laughs and carries on with the 30-second loop.
Holy macaroni is it ever frustrating.
So, my question to you is this: How often do you experience earworm? Is it troubling to you?
Tracy, N. (2012, November 23). The Bipolar Brain – A Radio Station You Can’t Turn Off, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/11/bipolar-brain-radio-cant-turn-off
Author: Natasha Tracy
I have been working on Psychoanalysis for 25 years and teaching for 12 years. Through all my life, I believed that this 'ecole' contains all the answers about any kind of mental problems. I do still believe...
As for my problems: I started to memorize some numbers, license plates, names, conversations and other things 3.5 years ago. Because of my scheduled life style, I had to skip long-term therapeutic process and started medical treatment. I took 100mg. Zoloft for two years and all symptoms dissapeared in the first 6 months successfully. I must say that the Sertraline is one of the most powerful tools for reducing anxiety.
After quiting pills -one year ago- this 'Stuck Song Syndrome' started. I just began to search some answers but I could not find any right suggestions.
I still have the same problem but not that effective. I don't have a spesific song. One song appears and then the other song generally dominates the first one. It is like a circle. I don't have any intention to take pills again.
Since 'anxiety' is not my major problem, I can face with these songs easily, like an observer from out of my mind. For the last two weeks, I managed to control those rhythms without trying to suppress them.
Here are some tips:
Whatever happens, please don't forget that the most harmful effect of the mind is anxiety. If you manage to reduce your anxiety, all musical effect 'slims down' automatically. If you defeat your anxiety, all musical symptoms lose their powers constantly. To defeat anxiety, put yourself in someone's place, someone who is healthy, who does not suffer with the same problem. Oberve people closer to you, see how they are careless about listening music, see how they go on with their life easily . A sharp identification with someone who does not have the same problem can really reduce the power of the song that stucks in your mind.
Second, jazz music; especially experimental or avant-garde jazz! It is really impossible to memorize any experimental Jazz music's partitions (if you are not a musician). When you listen that kind of music, the notes immediately transforms into an anti-virus that attacks the song stuck in your head. Use jazz as a spy for hunting the cheap song in your mind. Try 'Jazz Cure' not only once. You'll see the result after a couple of days.
There are some other interesting solutions, I'll keep on writing if you need to hear them.
BTW the jazz works amazingly well for me and is the only thing that helps maintain my sanity. All the best!
50 years is an enormous time to fight with an obsession. In early years of your life, 'antidepressant treatment' was not that powerful. Did you try new generation antidepressants? Zoloft is pretty active with these kind of obsessions, especially at higher doses (150-200 mg.)? I'm asking this because I really wonder about how you manage/d the anxiety level of this syndrome throughout the years.
I am VERY, VERY susceptible to the side effects of antidepressants and I transform into a total zombie. Better luck in the next life maybe?? :-)
This is quite common and not so rare after all. I understand that the constant earworms can be a warning/distraction from the brain when going deeper into a depression and anxiety, letting you know that cortisol is too high, and serotonin too low. Then there are those like myself who have OCD (pure ''o'' OCD in my case).
I have to admit that yes, the music can be annoying but I am saddened that some people on here are so frustrated and tired of them that they are suicidal. I really hope that you find the help that you need and try to live best with the music.
Initially when i had this syndrome I was very scared and went very deeply into anxiety and depression! A month after taking an SSRI (Paxil) it had all stopped and i felt amazing. However, 4 years after my initial diagnosis and the music, it came back when I was experiencing high levels of stress in life. After being off the Paxil for 3 1/2 years, i went back on them - and they have always worked for me.
Besides meds though i think there are some solutions our there that will help. Mindfulness and meditation can work. What you resist persists and what you look straight at will disappear. You can focus straight on it when you meditate. ERP is exposure, response prevention:- take a bath or meditate, notice the music and if anxiety comes up let it be (if this does happen) getting stronger, and stronger - however do not allow the compulsions to enter, such as pushing the music out, repeating numbers or words over it, jumping out of the bath/mediation position to find a quick distraction - JUST BE WITH IT. Also, according to Seth (PhD in Psychology) he suggested the following to me: 'With that kind of “earworm,” we usually recommend doing the opposite of our first inclination. So instead of trying to make it go away, the person would try to make it stay! Sing it “full volume” in one’s head, try to keep it in mind, etc. Our minds tend to be rebellious, and generally what happens when we try to keep something in mind is that our minds wander to other things. All the best with this!''
Also, there are other natural treatments such as vitamin C to reduce cortisol, magnesium chelate to relax the mind, chamomile, lavendar to increase some serotonin. Inositol (vitamin B8) is amazing, please read the following article
Also, please read these articles as there are CBT and ERP for stuck music syndrome: -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461857/
Importantly, see your GP/Mental Health Professional to talk about this. Talk therapy alone increases serotonin and makes you feel better.
I hope some of this helps
This is Juanma from Spain. I'm also a Obsessive person and going trough a lot lately... A few months ago my stuck songs came in, and now I ALWAYS have a song in my head. Usually the latest I heard. Sometimes I realize I have forgot about the song and then instantly I have one in my head... usually the same, as a "basic password song". This is just one of my many symptoms so I am starting with SSRI. Also meditation, sport, terhapy and everything you can imagine. I can get used to the music but it's a constant reminder of my anxiety and weakness and somedays I can't simply cope with it.
Just want to confirm: did you said SSRI help you get rid of the problem in a month? That would be awesome.
Would really thank your reply.
Not to say I'm perfect, just highly functional. People regularly ask me how I can do things I do or who taught me to do things. I try to explain to them occasionally that I didn't know anything about whatever it was but that I can look at things/situations and see how it functions. I can speed read and I find that I have so much information stored in my head that literally everything I look at works in an obvious way and for an obvious reason. Honestly, the entire world seems like a dream but I know it is real at the same time.
Anyway, about the audio hallucinations. Mine isn't just music. I have conversations, lectures, and the like going on in my head too. It is mostly music, but it could be anything. A conversation I had when I was a little kid, something I saw in a movie, How It's Made episodes, or a song. Sometimes I am pretty sure it isn't something I've ever heard or said but an imaginary conversation/song or a dream that I've thought through at some point in my life.
These all seem real, they sound real in my head. I know they aren't currently real but they seem like they would have been. It is almost like I am having a dream while I am going through the day. They have a quality that makes them obviously not real.
I always have something in my head. Things can be displaced or changed pretty easily but I don't have complete control over that. I often hear the same song for a week or more depending. Whenever I am talking to people they will say a word or phrase and immediately, ask a question, or something to that effect and the song will start in my head.
Some of the people I work with know this is happening.
I whistle, sing, or twitch to a song almost constantly. The twitches/muscle/sniffs/clenches/spasms are the least noticeable and I'm not sure if the they are playing the song or a song plays to match the twitches.
My wife doesn't really care for music and doesn't want to hear the same song daily. The little girl we adopted is mildly autistic(undiagnosed) and has a similar musical ability/issue inside. We listen to music together a lot when my wife isn't there.
I usually don't have a problem with any of this. When I am giving in to my sullen and dark side or raged out, the music isn't exactly helpful though. The conversations and stores turn bitter and angry. I've gotten good at pushing them aside now for the most part. I find a lot of caffeine, hobbies, and reading help refocus my mind. I spend most of my life in a somewhat manageable mania now.
I woke up to a song I've had in my head for a few days. "Pinned Down" by Rebel Son. Terrible song but it is what is there. I found this site looking to read about my audio hallucinations.
Thanks for the article, it's interesting.
One of the most frustrating things for me has been the difficulty of trying to explain my symptoms to other people (usually so called professionals), and it is almost impossible to articulate to others just how utterly relentless and debilitating this condition can be. One of the main reasons for this is that we are all unique human beings and, of course, experience things in completely different ways. I am thoroughly tired of 'professionals' telling me that they understand what I'm going through when that is patently impossible.
Anyway the main reason for this comment is to include a copy of an article that was written about 3 years ago in a national newspaper. It was submitted by a gentleman who suffers with INMI and it is one of the best pieces I have read on the subject. It is uncanny (to me anyway) how similar his symptoms mirror my own...........
"Have you ever found yourself with a piece of music stuck in your head for what feels like hours, or maybe even days? Perhaps a chorus, a catchy line, maybe a whole verse? If so, you probably didn’t find it too bothersome. These “earworms” are a natural byproduct of listening to music.
I experience a significantly amplified version of this strange beast. They can only be described as severe earworms bordering on musical hallucinations. I have a song looping in my head from the moment I wake until the moment I drift off to sleep – with absolutely no let-up in between. The earworm usually takes the form of one or two bars from a familiar song repeating incessantly, until another one finally pops into my head to replace it. It’s a neverending cycle. The source is often the last thing I heard on TV or simply the last piece of music I happened to think of. It’s easily triggered: something as innocuous as overhearing the word “groove” can set off the chorus to Earth, Wind & Fire’s Let’s Groove. It can often take me a minute or two just to realise its origin.
Yesterday, I had Slayer’s Piece By Piece looping in my head. Right now, it’s the Carly Rae Jepsen song I Really Like You. Unfortunately, there’s no clear medical explanation for my chronic condition – beyond murmurings of OCD and “auditory imagery loops”. I’ve realised that “earworm” is too meagre a term to describe this hellish affliction. Ear kraken or cochlea wolf would be more apt.
I believe the condition grew from an anxiety disorder that cropped up last summer. I’d had minor health anxieties as a teenager, but the fear this new bout caused me was so all-consuming that I spent the rest of 2014 feeling on the edge of psychosis. Jumping to such wild conclusions seems ignorant in hindsight, but rationality and anxiety do not go hand in hand.
My concerns have since died down considerably. Now, on the rare days when I feel like a well-adjusted and useful member of society, the compulsion to focus on the looping dissipates, and I’m able to go about my business uninterrupted. But when I’m at my worst, the music can still swell to an uncomfortable volume and send me into the most unpleasant spiral of obsession imaginable. There was a point towards the end of last year when I had The Who’s My Generation stuck in my head. Roger Daltrey’s “My generation!” refrain got louder and louder until it reached an impossible point of distortion that absolutely terrified me.
During conversations I will often zone out, the music looping in my head taking all my concentration. I’m basically a write-off when it comes to anything like instructions or directions. This has put a considerable dent in the love I once had for my hobbies. I used to adore cinema as much as I do music, but my ability to fully immerse myself within it has been seriously hindered. The next time you watch a film like the austere samurai revenger’s tragedy Hara-Kiri, try to imagine the chorus to Blue’s All Rise repeating on a low volume throughout – then you will understand my problem. It completely punctures any tension or atmosphere, and makes absorbing dialogue an absolute nightmare. Matthew McConaughey’s musings on the intricacies of space travel were practically white noise by the time I’d made it to the end of Interstellar. My mind feels perpetually clogged, as if at a permanent standstill. Cohesive, fully realised thoughts rarely manage to stumble their way through the fog.
There are a few minor advantages to all of this, especially when it comes to composing (I’m able to pluck melodies out of nowhere). But there’s still something painful about suffering from a symptom that seems so abstract and minor from the outside. I started a course of anxiety inhibitors, SSRIs, towards the end of last year in an attempt to curb the problem and, although they’ve managed to quell the surrounding anxiety, the song remains the same and shows no sign of stopping. It’s a horrid nuisance but I’ve gradually taught myself to accept the condition as permanent. Now all I have to do is learn how to live with it."
I started to have this happen for the past five months or so, it's very manageable/absent now. Just realize your emotional response to any thought gives it meaning and that meaning makes it stick around. Your brain feels like it needs to keep bringing something back to help you solve it. Your cortex brings back the thought, but the limbic system brings back the negative emotion and overpowers any ability to rationalize. You feel what you focus on, if you take away the negative feelings associated with music stuck in your head it will dissipate over time. Worrying creates problems, not solves them.
Almost everyone on the face of the earth has these. The more you hyper focus on them, the worse they will be. I highly suggest that others who struggle with anxiety, depression, bi polar, or other mental illnesses try to give themselves compassion by speaking positivity into themselves. Remember your value. Have grace for yourself. Take deep breaths and practice healthy self care. Most importantly, remember you are not alone. The mind is powerful. Let it be what it is.... uniquely yours.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
For anyone who may read the above, please carefully consider the possible negative outcomes of using illegal drugs. They can bring about psychosis that can be very difficult to treat. Also, as they are not regulated (obviously) you never know what's really in a drug.
Just a reminder.
- Natasha Tracy
Stumbled upon this topic quite accidentally in a moment of BiPolar desperation and tears. But have no fear; I have always preferred to cycle ultra-rapidly; sure the highs and lows are more condensed, but most of the time it keeps me in a relatively safe state between detesting my very existence and wondering why I haven't been put in charge of, well, everything.
For me, it never stops. ever. "Stop grinding your teeth Mike." says the voice in my head whilst I am busy thinking about the current task at hand happens to often to count. In addition to my odd ball internal sound track, my brain likes to grind my teeth in time to the music. Obviously this tends to be counter-productive to my teeth, but I am also blessed with Arthritis mutilans; so every joint, every muscle, every tendon, every physical connection is crushed under the swelling pressure and eventually damaged beyond repair or replacement. It is constant pain all the time. My mind tortures my body and I don't really get a say in it. But hey, I still got my health.
<Successfully> avoiding treatment since '87, if it wasn't for laughing, I'd be crying.
and try to clear my mind and it lasts for like 30 seconds with effort. i thought maybe it's my meds since it has worsened. What is the treatment for this because I'm to the point I can't take it. You know they torture people by playing constant music or tapes. I'm at my wits end.
I'm sorry to hear you are experiencing this. I know how frustrating this is.
There is no set treatment. All I can tell you to do is to work with your doctor as some medications may help with this while others may hurt.
- Natasha Tracy
The moment i open my eyes there is a song already playing in my head, it could be a song i heard the day before o just a random one, it's entertaining in the morning while im getting dress but it was annoying when i was at school and had to shut up myself to play attention on class and concentrate a lot to mute it for a while but until without noticing is already there.
If im thinking, the song is on the backgroung like a movie soundtrack, some friends randomly ask: what song is on right now? And i can say the song and sing outloud what part of the song is in automatically.
I don't know anyone with that problem, except maybe my dad that have something similar, so reading all the comment her make me feel better knowing that im alone in this radio ON thing.
I have tried many different things through the years but nothing has really helped. I have never heard of Abilifly and was interested to ask you a few questions. I did some quick research on this recently and it seems there are a lot of bad side effects, one of which is weight gain. I also hear it can produce chronic insomnia.
Anyway I just wondered where you obtained the Abilify and how much it cost? I looked at a few websites and was horrified at the cost of this drug - absolutely crazy. Although I am interested in finding more information I doubt if I will be using this for the reasons mentioned.
Over the years I have been prescribed various anti-depressants but they were not that helpful; usually the side effects were as bad as the actual problem. The worst issue was insomnia, and this is one of the worst things a human being can suffer.
I hope that things will improve for you in the future. Best regards...
So in ur case does music play constantly or pops up like mine. A song plays in my head in the morning any random song, and then it keeps pops up in my head, dies not play constantly but pops up when I talk or think. It only stops when I am chatting online or watching something.
truly sorry you are suffering with this strange and awful condition. I have had this for so many years but it doesn't get any easier. I have recently been diagnosed as having "chronic OCD" but knowing that is no real comfort. During those years I have tried about everything you can possibly think of to gain some measure of relief but, unfortunately, nothing has ever helped..
One of the most difficult things is trying to explain to others (be they professional or not) exactly what it means to suffer with this. I'm afraid it's one of those things that is very difficult, if not impossible, for the 'normal' person to understand.
To an extent I have learned to live with this; however I still have many days where I pray I could just fall asleep and never wake up. All I can do is just take each day as it comes and hope that eventually things will improve. All the best