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've been dealing with odd feelings my whole life. Hearing a pencil tapping during a test in high school would make me want to take it from them and stab them in the hand with it. I get wildly irrationally angry and act out and then as soon as I'm calm I'm embarrassed because I don't know why I did it. I suddenly stopped enjoying billiards and going out every night like I used to but then I will go right back to wanting to constantly be in motion. I can't sleep some days not because of insomnia but because I am literally not tired.
It scares my girlfriend. I don't feel like I can trust medication because I'm afraid of being changed. I like things about me but I hate this feeling that I don't always know what's really going on and that I'm going to hurt someone or myself. Self harm and these very odd thoughts like jumping off my balcony just because (I don't feel sad or worthless it just....seems like a good idea...)
I don't know what to do...I guess I'm just posting this because I need to say it in some way. Matt isn't my real name but if you have anything to say I'd appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, there's really only one thing you can do - talk to a professional. There is nothing I can write that's going to fix anything you're thinking or feeling. If you feel like you don't want to try medication, then how about talking to a therapist? A psychotherapist might be able to help you understand your own thoughts and feelings better.
Now, personally, I think if it's gotten to a point where you're scaring your girlfriend then it's time to give medication and therapy a try. But that's up to you. Either way, talk to someone who can help you. Many people are out there.
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.
I have ocd tendencies but only when i feel well. Hypermanic.. the pain makes me feel low and lack of sleep is a big trigger as i can feel dizzy n feel sick in the mornings.
I have to be careful not to listen to music or any tune before bedtime my partner cant even mention a name if a tune otherwise i will hear it on loop.. if i have a hectic day my brain will punish me all night and the same if it knows i need to get up early or have something important to do the next day. Its a contstant battle.. im glad their is a name for the constant music and that someone has suggested a person with bi polar could be more likely to suffer from this condition.
Unlike earworms, the sounds made by MES are musical, but the instruments are always either gazoos, beeps, horns, pipe organs, for example. I never hear a full song, just a portion. Some of the music I hear is abstract, and pretty disturbing. Other pieces of music are very traditional, such as Frere Jacques, Three Blind Mice, The Star Spangled Banner, Mon Cheri Amour (Stevie Wonder), Jingle Bells, a piece from a Jason Mraz song... The tempo can speed up and slow down on its own and the number of song-bits played at one time can be as many as five.
In addition to the tunes, I hear chanting, but there are no words, just monk-like chanting as they hold certain notes and roam the scale. I also hear groaning. Yee hah.
My psychiatrist had me try Seroquel to see if there was a psychotic element to the origin of the sounds. The Seroquel had no effect on the sounds or my ability to deal with them. I am currently in the process of applying for disability. I am also hearing impaired. It's all in the head...
There are 5 precursors to MES, none of which are related to bipolar disorder, but you may want to take note of the following characteristics that may lead to MES:
1. having a hearing loss
2. having pre-existing tinnitus
3. living alone
4. taking ototoxic medication (chemotherapy)
5. being elderly
Thank you, everyone, for your posts! People who do not have this have NO idea. Sometimes the sounds in my head are so loud and loopy that I get nauseous.
So I attemped to try and over rule what my head wanted to say. It took me weeks and weeks. My head fought with me. We battled. I have partially won. This is what I say now when it wants to go on one of those loops.
"I am whole, perfect, powerful, loving, happy, harmonious, and strong"
It helps when my head has put me in a stuck place also.
I don't know what to do about these theme songs, it's not like I even hear them anywhere BUT my own head! But for the everyday stuff, I am VERY careful about what I listen to, especially in the morning. If I can't stop it, I at least want positive messages running through my head all day. I put together a drive-to-work playlist that is cheery and optimistic.
PS: Thank you all for being here.
Most days though, it is so crazy-irritating-driving-me-mad that I can hardly stand to be awake. Trying to find something to drive it out isn't always successful because I can't always listen to headphones to knock them off track. Besides, that only sets me up for different ones.
But like you, it doesn't have to be a song that I've heard recently, or in the case of the Kraken, a phrase I even know from a movie. I've never seen any movie with that phrase in it, just a few comedy skits about it...but apparently, it stuck.
But, is like when I cannot remember something (name, data, etc.) Just try not to pay attention and ignore it until it goes away.
And while I write this I keep singing the stupid chorus in my head, hahaha.