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The Bipolar Brain – A Radio Station You Can’t Turn Off

Earworms are songs you can't get out of your head and they seem to affect my bipolar brain in a big way. More at Breaking Bipolar blog.

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?

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

198 thoughts on “The Bipolar Brain – A Radio Station You Can’t Turn Off”

  1. Wow! I’m newly diagnosed with bipolar II. For about thirty years I’ve had constant music in my head. The more hypomanic I am, the faster the music gets. Right now its a constant blur of real fast children songs from television.. (Thank you Disney Channel…) It’s amazing to learn that other people have this, and that the phenomena has a name. I don’t suffer so much because of this, I guess I’ve just learned to accept that this is how I am … (But it’s quite annoying when there’s bad music though)

  2. Wow..so there’s a name for all those songs going through my head on almost a daily basis. There are mornings when I wake up with one and have no clue where it came from. A lot of mine may be nursery rhymn songs…hmmm…I’m 50 yrs. old.

  3. YES. All the time. Usually the same song for days, especially if I sung it/ heard friends sing it, and usually it’s a calmer song. Occassionally classical, but often things like the Beatles or, the past week or so, hebrew songs (jewish). And then I’ll start humming them or singing them quietly, and if I don’t know the lyrics if they have them, I’ll make them up, or in the case of hebrew ones, say a random syllable or something, I dunno. It’ll often be one verse or chorus, not the whole song.

  4. Hi Marrianna,

    If you think you may have bipolar disorder, I recommend you talk to a doctor. If you are, antidepressants aren’t likely the best choice for you.

    Absolutely, physical pain can worsen emotional pain and those are two things that should be handled together.

    – Natasha

  5. Natasha as I mentioned in my post above I suffer some physical pain and although from my research and reading your blogs on bi – polar I think that is what I have but I have not had a diagnosis. I believe that the factors Ihave to deal with have worsen my case.But none of the depression meds worked for me.

  6. I must say I get earworms too. Does anyone on this site gets pains, I get pains on the left sie of my head , to be more specific right above my left eye and radiates down my left side.

  7. I suggest that by outthinking my earworms with an imagined humming chorus of Smoke on the Water, -a heavy metal song from the 70’s -it completly obliterates the dang earworm on the spot. Works everytime.

  8. I have this a lot. I haven’t officially been diagnosed with bipolar though my previous therapist seemed to wonder if i did. I do have “mood disorders” and severe ADD though. My boyfriend laughs at me because I will get so obsessed with thoughts, phrases, ideas, or music that gets stuck in my head that he says I am crazy. Sometimes I drive everyone nuts in my house complaining about “earworms”. My bf(undiagnosed ADD) and son do get them too though. My son has Autism and ADD so he has echolalia and keeps repeating things he hears on tv a million times and gets us irritating. I am glad there is a term for this. You learn something new every day.

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