advertisement

I Talk to Myself Incessantly; Is Part of This Bipolar?

April 18, 2023 Natasha Tracy

I talk to myself all the time. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who talks to themselves more than I do. It's an incessant, running commentary on my existence. It's like I have my own narrator — but not only are they saying what's happening, but they're commenting on it, too. The question is, if I talk to myself, is this a part of bipolar disorder?

A few years ago, I wrote about earworms (music playing over and over in your head), and it's absolutely shocking how many people identified with the experience of distressing earworms. I still get people contacting me about it. While everyone experiences earworms from time to time, when they become severe and distressing, I would call that obsession. I sometimes get obsessive and distressing earworms ("I'm Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO, anyone?). That's when I'm not talking to myself, of course.

I Talk to Myself Obsessively

And really, seriously, I talk to myself whenever music isn't playing in my head.

See this video for more about my experience with talking to myself.

And when things are really bad, I talk to myself and have earworms almost simultaneously. It feels impossible to think as no open cycles are left in my brain. And the talking and the earworms speed up more and more until it feels insane in there.

I Talk to Myself — Is It My Bipolar Disorder?

Here's what I know — talking to yourself is not a diagnostic criterion for bipolar disorder. That being said, hypomania and mania are. A study by Kornreich and colleagues found that people with bipolar disorder were likelier to talk to themselves during manic episodes than during depressive episodes or when in a euthymic (normal) state. The researchers suggested that self-talk could be used as a marker for the presence of manic symptoms.1

In other words, when experiencing a "flight of ideas" or "pressured speech," part of that may be an increased chance of talking to yourself.

Is Talking to Myself an Obsession?

But I think there's an important element missing here, and that's something I mentioned earlier: obsession.

Bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) share a bidirectional relationship. Those with OCD have a greater risk of bipolar disorder than the rest of the population, and those with bipolar disorder have a higher rate of OCD than the average population too. For example, a study by Poyurovsky and colleagues found that about 10 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder also met the criteria for OCD.2 Another study by Dilsaver and Akiskal found that 11 percent of patients with bipolar disorder had comorbid OCD and that these patients had a higher incidence of anxiety and depressive symptoms than those without OCD.3

Moreover, research has shown that individuals with OCD may engage in talking to themselves as a way of coping with their obsessions and anxiety. A study by Purdon and Clark found that people with OCD used self-talk to manage their obsessive thoughts and reduce their anxiety.4

I can attest to the fact that I do have high anxiety, and yes, I used self-talk to battle it. (I also use self-talk to battle depression.)

I Talk to Myself, So What?

So the answer is we don't have any direct evidence that talking to yourself is a part of bipolar disorder. That's fine with me; maybe I'm just weird. That doesn't bother me a whit, except for the fact that the obsessive talking to myself can be quite distressing at times. As I said earlier, when there's no room for my ideas because all the cycles are taken up by obsessive talking and music, it's not fun for me.

Of course, if you're distressed by any behavior or thought pattern — whether you think it's part of bipolar disorder or not -- please talk to your doctor. They may be able to help you calm it down.

Sources

  1. Kornreich, C. et al. (2001). Impaired emotional facial expression recognition in bipolar disorder: a preliminary study. European Psychiatry.

  2. Dilsaver, S. C., & Akiskal, H. S. (1989). Comorbidity of anxiety disorders in bipolar illness: an update. Psychiatric Clinics.

  3. Poyurovsky, M. et al.(2010). Obsessive-compulsive disorder in hospitalized patients with bipolar disorder: clinical correlates and implications for pharmacotherapy. Bipolar Disorders.
  4. Purdon, C., & Clark, D. A. (1993). Overcoming obsessive thoughts: Strategies for individuals. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2023, April 18). I Talk to Myself Incessantly; Is Part of This Bipolar?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2023/4/i-talk-to-myself-incessantly-is-part-of-this-bipolar



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

sam K
May, 26 2024 at 1:16 am

Hi Natasha
I don't have a diagnosis for bipolar although the psych said it sounds like cyclothymia (which is a milder form of bipolar 🤷‍♀️)
I started talking to myself when I was in my mid teens and it never stopped, i'm 45 now.
My talking coincides with mood and comes complete with expression, gesticulating and pacing around. It's like something kick starts in my brain and i feel an overwhelming compulsion to leave my seat and pace around. The talking can be real/ imagined conversations with real / imagined people. The inner monologue is in over drive and it feels like i'm
dreaming wide awake. I feel like I'm in the imagined place but know I'm not actually there.
It goes on throughout the day, every day and I don't like it, nothing will make it stop.
I'm not sure what sort of medication would knock this on the head.
Ive read enough to know a lot of people do the talking, people with schizophrenia, dementia, autism, adhd, down's syndrome, anxiety disorders, loneliness (coping mechanism)
I also came across the term maladaptive dreaming too, not sure if that's a mild psychosis which can occur with bipolar.

May, 29 2024 at 10:13 am

Hi Sam,
Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry you're having such overwhelming experiences. That sounds hard.
I would say that when I get really wrapped up in talking to myself because of hypomania, it's similar but I don't feel like I'm in an imagined place or dreaming. That's the part that may be concerning.
If you're experiencing distress because of these experiences, you absolutely should tell your doctor -- and make it clear that it's causing your distress. It does sounds like it falls into the mild psychosis category, but that doesn't occur with cyclothymia. That only occurs in bipolar I. Of course, you may be experiencing bipolar and psychotic symptoms, just in an unusual way. (There is a category of bipolar disorder for this called "Other Specified Bipolar and Related Disorder.") https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-types/what-are-the-types-of-bipolar…
Experiences like that are normally treated with antipsychotics. A low dose of one of those medications may be just what you need. Antipsychotics are serious medication, though, so you want to carefully consider whether you think it's worth taking them. Thoroughly discussing your options with your doctor should help you make that decision: https://www.healthyplace.com/thought-disorders/schizophrenia-articles/antipsychotic-medic…
If you choose to go down the medication route, go slowly and continually assess along the way. There are many antipsychotics available, so it can take time to find the right one for you.
It's really good that you've recognized these issues in yourself. Now you can work on lessening them.
Good luck.
-- Natasha Tracy

Corrina coronado
November, 13 2023 at 8:01 pm

Hello. My name is corrina. I had a really bad experience this summer. I thought I had been drugged and possessed. I got really depressed like REALLY! That's all I remember. Then voices started coming. They told me to throw out everything. All my belongings my partners belongings. Then I decided to stop taking my medications. Which were Sereguel and methadone and marrajana. I didn't sleep for 27 days while the whole time I was talking to myself. I heard my dead parents and wooo ALOT!! I was diagnosed with bipolar 20 years ago and started the Sereguel. I talk to myself on a daily. Sometimes worse then other days. My voices stopped. I went back to a methadone clinic. Iam down 80 milligrams. I was talking 175 milligrams of Sereguel but now 50. I've been smoking cbd and just started smoking cbd vape. Iam so scared that the voices will come back so ice been using ALOT of cbd. It is actually what made the voices go away. I don't know what else to do? But I wish I could stop talking to myself but it's just getting worse. Like you I just talk about what my next steps are and I talk about past experiences throughout the day. Things like that. Do you have any advice to what I can do to stop talking so much? Or anything? Thank you 😊

Mari
April, 20 2023 at 8:10 am

Hi,Natasha!
Thank you for the article and opportunity to discuss mental health issues.
I've been incessantly talking to myself since my early childhood. I used to think that I did it beacuse I was a very shy person and had an enormous fear of talking to other people and talking to myself was a compensatory behaviour to satisfy the need of communication.
Now I'm 32 years old and I am still talking to myself in spite of overcoming my sociophobia and having more and more opportunities of communication.
My therapist taught me several skills that really helps me to calm down this exhausting behaviour. I'm talking about "mindfullness" techniques that help me to concentrate better and be more productive every day.
Wish you all love and mental health :)

Laura
April, 19 2023 at 6:33 am

I do talk incessantly. Not very nicely a lot of times, then I argue and say not to talk to me that way. It's as if the depression has an evil tone. Staying on track with so much sluggish lack of motivation involves more arguing. Lots of frustrated cussing. There is also usually a running story going on in my head. I figure to distract my mind from it's nastiness to some extent. Sometimes I react to the story out loud. I forget my family can hear me in the bathroom.

April, 20 2023 at 1:06 pm

Hi Laura,
I'm sorry to hear that you're inner monolog is not nice. I actually agree that depression does have a nasty tone.
I agree, talking to yourself can be a way of distracting yourself from the things you don't want to think about, and that could be depression. Maybe loop your family into what you're doing so that if they hear you, they know why you're doing what you're doing and that it makes sense.
Just a thought.
-- Natasha Tracy

Leave a reply