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
Here's how it's negatively affected me:
*I have a hard time focusing when it's really bad (aka really loud an obnoxious). When that happens, I unintentionally tune out who I'm listening to.
*It seems worse when I'm tired, and it makes me feel tired, so that's a fun little cycle.
*It's really affected my job performance. I was in banking for 13 years, more than half as a manager, and I had so many days where I just couldn't really do anything productive.
*In the past two years or so, it's gotten to be more of an issue. I think, in part, because I'm more aware of it and therefore realize it's a)not normal, b) makes me mentally exhausted & c) negatively affects my job and relationships.
I am not bipolar that I'm aware of, and don't seem to have the characteristics of it. I was told this is OCD behaviour, but I've never looked into it really. I guess my plan for the time being is to just live with it. But there are days when it's just really bad.
I can't get sad music out of my head. Right now, its "Your Guardian Angel" By Red Jumpsuit.
I love the song. It's great for being an emo sad kid... and 12. (Me being 22 doesn't help)
I even learned how to play it on guitar about a year ago. I'm joining the air force soon and I feel like the more and more nervous/anxious I get the louder the music gets.
But it's not like this has just started for me. It's been happening for years and years and I think it's causing a oversleeping problem for me because sleep is the only time it isn't there..
Possible bipolar 2
And just recently a near death survivor
I find that these loops get louder and more annoying the higher my stress or anxiety or the lower my focus. Strangely I am realizing that my recently achieved sobriety and freedom from a 21 year loveless marriage, that has meant great life full of content for once, has resulted in
- my ADHD going off the charts
- constantly talking out loud to myself
- those muted voices are heard more often and are becoming almost distinguishable
- incredible moments of total lucidity and superhuman clarity. I have on four occasions now, four just small seconds of window, knew/understood WHY and HOW IT IS ALL CONNECTED and the last time HOW SIMPLE IT WOULD BE TO BRING IT ALL BACK TO STATE OF TRUTH, FUNCTIONAL STASIS??? Really the answer is right in front of us. So my thought on this interesting group of song loopers and the like goes something like this.
Radio antennae is a key word but really what we all seem to have in common is sensory issues. Issues to the "norm". I know there are some that are still reading this and nodding. Please read on...
These windows of knowledge/enlightenment that I have experienced always close quickly but always leave a residual message. The last was that there are many of us evolving one way or another to a crucial, new level. Perhaps our dysfunctions and diminished mental capacities are actually enhancements and prerequisites for a kind of reception that will be necessary now or soon. I am starting to intuitively know that humankind is going through a colossal shift on all levels. Collapse and destruction of old systems will be necessary for true creation of a new design. This will require a download of knowledge that needs a particular human to receive and transmit?
Hmmm, I'm sounding less than sane, but I think there will be some this will resonate with. My message to you is see these no longer as " mental disorders " but as refinements. Use your extraordinary talents of sensation, reception, observation, and intuition. To do what I can't tell you. If your actions are motivated by love and truth, staying clear of hate, fear, untruth, the universe will show you where and how you are needed.
Open heart, open mind, open spirit!
One thing I've noticed is that when the song gets stuck for a long time, and gets degraded, it actually hurst my brain. I only know this because I can force a new one, I can listed to a new one, and then the hurt goes away. But the old one can come back, or a new one can take place.
I know that the reason it is so horrible now is because i am under tremendous stress, I hate my job, but am stuck as I need the money and not too many prospects. I am unhappy in my living situation and I am alone with all of this.
My ADD is also a trigger. I can't make a decision and I am overwhelmed by so many variables.
i would love to connect with people who experience this and and perhaps start a community because being alone with it is worse, and having others makes it so much more manageable.
Since I have lived with this for 4 decades, but only in the last tow years have been diagnosed so my self-esteem is pretty and my therapist because very frustrated with me because I had no attention span and couldn't focus on doing anything about it.
Having said all this, I have been pretty high functioning, bought a house held jobs, but it has taken a huge toll and I have been under constant stress hiding my limitations from employers.
I have anxiety disorder, and this problem is more manifest when I'm experiencing heightened anxiety or when I've been triggered by something. I also have OCD, but I notice it more when my anxiety is triggered. And it's not fun tunes or catchy tunes. Sometimes it's just two lines of really sad songs, which believe me is not what you want in your head when you're trying to manage anxiety. When I've been at my worst, it's just random music without lyrics, nothing I can even identify. Sometimes I wonder if my brain is making that music up.
I'm 42 and my torment started in my early teen years when I discovered the likes of Led Zeppelin, Metallica, AC/DC, Beatles and so on. I always stayed away from pop music as best I possibly could for fear of getting one of those "flavor of the day" songs stuck in my head. When it does happen I usually go through the hundreds of snippets of songs I involuntarily torture myself with and tune into something less revolting. I discovered I could change tracks easily but I haven't found the Off switch yet.
I love music, especially the oldies which revolve around the above bands. The more obscure songs or live versions will add to my mental repertoire but I cannot play whole songs...only snippets. These snippets also come back in constant loops resulting in lack of concentration. I luckily don't hum or sing but I sometimes follow the beat with restless legs and teeth clicking!
I recently did an online bipolar test and scored pretty high and I'm somewhat diagnosed with light ADD... Does it mean anything? Maybe, but I don't care much about it. Classical music, physical activities tend to clear the air (...Arrgh, In the Air Tonight -Phil Collins tuning in!)
Hang in there people. There are far worst things in life!
I am 67 now and have finally come to terms with living with this for the rest of my life. I don't wish to sound melodramatic but sometimes you just have to accept a situation and make the best of it. My only consolation is that the intensity of the earworms (for want of a better description) varies from day to day and month to month; in other words I have good days and very bad days. I have devised many coping strategies over the years most of which you will all be familiar; for me the thing that most helps is listening to classical music..
Perhaps one day there will be a better understanding of conditions like this; maybe even a magic pill that takes away the pain; unfortunately I don't think it will be anytime soon. Anyway I wish you all well and passionately hope you will all have some form of relief in the future....
I'm female, 70 years old, and was diagnosed as bipolar about five years ago. When I did exhibit manic-depressive behavior, I really jumped in, psychotic and far removed from this world. After medicines and counseling, I thought most of my problem was over. Silly me.
I should add that I'm prone to be tense even when I don't have a reason to be, and I am profoundly deaf in speech frequencies. I have no disks at all left in my back, and take strong painkillers (I follow doctor's instructions religiously) for that and scoliosis, as well as curvature of the spine. All of my tension settles in my neck, shoulders, and jaw. I clench my teeth when I sleep and sometimes when I'm awake, until I notice it and consciously relax.
Well. Like everybody else, I've had songs stuck in my head for three or four days now and then. But last week I started something new. I hear something like a trumpet-setting for an organ in my right ear only. I hear a melody note and a harmony note, never anything else, and it goes on and on. At first it started only after dark, when I was tired. It has gradually gotten worse until I, like some of you, wake with it.
I'm only on a low-dosage mood stabilizer, so of course I was instantly paralyzed with fear that my mental illness was worsening (when I first experienced bipolar problems, I literally "heard" a radio station that played '40's tunes). This time the music is clearly in my head. I hear hymns (traditional Lutheran ones), Christmas songs, "Jesus Loves Me," and worst and most frequently, Brahms' "Lullaby." They are always in the key of C major. (My mind is rather limited musically, it seems.) I can change the songs at will, and they usually shuffle on their own, but they never STOP!
I don't want to go back to see my psychiatrist, because my family will be all a-flutter. I've never been the least violent, but some of my kin are scared of me at the very best. It ain't worth it, unless I really can't bear this any more.
Finally, conclusions: I agree that stress and tension contribute to the problem. Just before all this started, I was badly humiliated and hurt by an in-law, and my mind kept replaying the scene. In addition, I started using 4mg Nicorette instead of 2mg, and drinking gallons of coffee (decaf, but not caffeine free). I hadn't really put it all together until I read the comments here--in fact, when I searched "constant melody bipolar" I didn't expect to find a thing! Now I know what I need to try. I need to drastically cut down on coffee and nicotine and spend time just relaxing. I've already tried the deep breathing, and it does help! Thank you all so much.
Once you notice your song, force yourself to take three slow deep breaths (4 counts in/out), really expandingflattening your abdomen all the way it can go. Try your very best to stop the song from interrupting.
Obviously your song will start up again, once it does, use your brain to guide the song into a slower pace by keeping your breath slow and allowing only one word per breath part ... so for JSH the example is
She'll (In-2-3-4) Be (Out-2-3-4) Coming (In-2-3-4) Round (Out-2-3-4) The (In-2-3-4) Mountain (Out-2-3-4) ...
For as long as possible, leverage the non-singing part of your brain to slow down the earworm to match the slow deep breaths. If the earworm takes over again, just smile and simply start again (don't judge yourself, it's going to happen). The brain is a muscle and over time you will be able to do this more easily.
You can learn more about this style of technique through this link http://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1762/. At least listen all the way through parts 1 & 2. Another place to learn about these techniques is called MBSR http://palousemindfulness.com/selfguidedMBSR_week0.html.
But I can see how it could be more of a problem for someone with OCD
If you ask around you'll find ear worms is common among the general population. You don't need to have bipolar to have earworms
Although, come to think of it... Whenever my brain wants to rest -- hello little movie theater (I also experience constant CEVs) that just never ever shuts down.
I thought it was just some weird thing . That it was just me. I was diagnosed BP2 when i was 26 but i had symptoms and issues my whole damaged life. I have earworms every stinkin day. Sometimes its more in the background and sometimes i think im going mad. Its so nice to have somebody say they get it too!