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?
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Tracy, N. (2012, November 23). The Bipolar Brain – A Radio Station You Can’t Turn Off, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/11/bipolar-brain-radio-cant-turn-off
Author: Natasha Tracy
Everyday and night. I find I can sometimes change to radio station, so to speak. I found a CD called Gama Meditation II (or very similar name). I haven't tried it yet for earworms but it works effectively when my brain is in hamster mode, for lack of a scientific or layman's term. It's provided immense relief. At other times, the same CD is highly annoying; when I am not experiencing "hamster brain". It might work. I do not have the CD on my person now, or I would try it out.
I have music in my head all the time. It can be annoying but I sometimes use it as a way to stay focused. I do have severe depression and have quite a few OCD tendencies so that's probably where it's from. After a while of a song going through my head, and most of the time it's a few lines, I have finally worked out what the lyrics to the whole song are.
Ever since I could remember, I have had music constantly stuck in my head 24/7. I've been researching and trying to find a name for it everywhere. Every single day without fail, there's a song stuck in my head, and it changes every once in a while. I've actually been woken up from a certain song in my head in the middle of the night, or I would wake up and remember a song playing in my dream, the same song that would be stuck in my head when I woke up in the morning! I may have some form of OCD but I'm not diagnosed. Do you (or anyone reading this) have any idea what it could be?
I don't think anyone really knows but, as far as I can tell, it's some weird form of OCD/bipolar disorder condition
I wish I did, I understand your pain! Especially being woken up in the middle of the night, sometimes it's only a single line on a song but I can't stop from saying it over and over. Just want to turn it off
Beethoven was deaf and think of the music in his head. Count it as a blessing.
No offence but if you think this is a blessing then, believe me, you have no concept of the torture this condition can inflict. There are no words to decribe this mental agony...
You should check brokenrecordsyndrome.blogspot.com.
This is pretty much a continuous thing. Even in my dreams I have songs going and wake up with them stuck in my head for hours. Sometimes I don't even have to hear a song for it to get lodged in my brain. Sometimes just a word or two in normal conversation can pop a song and next thing you know, I'm moving about singing the lyrics. I keep telling my family that it's not a normal thing and there should be a name for this.
The constant tune in my head began 2 years ago when I found porn on my husband's devices. Hasn't let up and has been much worse lately. It's exhausting. It starts the second I wake up, even in the middle of the night. I don't have a history of bipolar, but I take Prozac and admit to a moderate amount of OCD and anxiety. I weaned myself off Xanax and Vyvanse earlier this year. I'm 63.
Oh me too,over and over,driving me potty I don't want to say anything I just can't stop the music in my head music in my head and it's like different tunes and all the time repeat over and over and if I myself kind of breathing the tune out breathing it like in the music and if I'm wrong thinking about something I want to stop doing this and I'm doing it while I'm trying to think about stopping it I think it's sending me crazy
I have it all the time! My songs that play in my head are full songs and it will just repeat and i end up getting like 8-13 songs played in my head a day ive counted, like today at the dinner table i sat down and all of a sudden "beauty school dropout" started playing in my head and i havent seen grease in 2 and a half years! When it happens i have trouble hearing people like i cant concentrate on 1 person or if there is noise coming from something around me and i have that stuff playing in my head while someone is talking to me i only get parts of what they say.? and i get frustrated and end up breaking down and crying cause no one knows whats happening in my head and they judge me for it. Im going into 10th grade and i struggle in class because of it.??
The dang song won't shut off!! Over and over and over.. ridiculous
I have ASD and lately I've had "There will be applause" stuck in my head. To counter it I play Daft Punk's Around The World on repeat. It's more repetitive but non-annoying to me.
I've had two songs that seem as if they constantly play in my head. Perhaps they are not constant and only play when I think about them. Maybe they are constant and I have somehow managed to push them to the background. They are "Evacuate the Dancefloor" by Cascada [I absolutely hate this song] and "Toes" by LIGHTS [which I love]. When I have a moment of silence around me, I start humming either of these songs. I do get other songs stuck in my head from time to time. I even dream about them. But they eventually disappear. These two however, never seem to go away.
Good Lord yes! It's been something I've lived with since I was 14 (46 now). It only got worse during and after military service. It can get so bad that I even get a DJ in it. It's usually unintelligible compared to the songs but its there. Sometimes the DJ is breaks back to military radio comms. Then the "music" starts up again. It can get so bad that it triggers other things in PTSD and bi-polar. Sometimes I can counter it by a quick meditation but it can interrupt that. But if I go over Korean vocabulary said aloud over and over that tends to force it out. (Korean terms used in martial arts). I second the person that said classical/instrumental music can help.
one thing that has been helping me a lot with this problem is listening to meditation type music/lucid dream music and the like..
I have that problem. Incessant loud music, all types. I have bipolar and ocd. I m on antiosychotics. They don t really help the music bit. Music and TV detox does work. No more charts or electronic music and NO commercials with jingles likely to stay in my head for days. This earworm phenomenon is massive. I ve been checking online for years now and there are more and more entries dealong with this. With the bipolar i have issues of self harm and wanting to commit suicidd but I can say honestly this ear worm problem is the worst of all the aspects of my condition and if there is one thing that will push me to harm myself it s incessant music that won t stop. I hit my head against the wall or furniture on and on but it s doesn t go
If you want to stop it then do a music cleanse. You have to listen to music for 2 - 4 weeks with no lyrics. Mostly classical music and then it will stop. Probably way before then. I've had the same problem and it got so bad I was waking up in the middle of the night with songs in my head as well. I also stopped watching TV and I read. I did this as a 30 day cleanse. I strongly suggest this. Music and TV heighten negative thoughts and puts all kinds of negative, submissive @ repetitive thoughts in ones head. All the luck to you guys. BLESS
Hi whilst this will probably help some to a certain degree it is just one of dozens (if not hundreds) of 'strategies'
that people develop to try and alleviate the symptoms of this horrendous condition.
Personally I have suffered with this for over 50 years, so there is little I have not tried during that time:
pyschiatrists, pyschologists, hypnotherapy, medication, spiritual healing, and anything else you can think of
(including most, if not all, of the suggestions within this section).
I have no real idea why this happens to people; I can only surmise that it is some form of OCD/bipolar disorder
(very little else seems to fit the bill).
One thing, however, is certain: despite all the amazing advances in the medical sciences over the last 50 years or more,
there is still no real 'cure' for this problem. Hopefully, at some future point, we may know enough to help those who suffer;
in the meantime I guess we have to try and cope as best we can.
I wish I could be more positive about this but it's very difficult - especially after 50 years!
Anyway I truly hope that everyone here will eventually enjoy the peace of mind that is so often taken for granted by the
millions of 'normal' people out there.
I'm in my 52nd year and, until recently, I thought everybody had this. I can tune out the 'record' quite a bit, or even sometimes make my own - I used to be a musician and, actually, I'd rather keep this 'malady' than be cured of it. I am most sorry that others find it distressing.
This is torturing me. Bloody Barry White for 4 days straight now. I feel like I notice it more as I get older. I wonder if I'm going insane, feeling like I'm trapped in my own brain.
I experience it every night. Its like a radio in my head. I can change the song but i cant turn it down or off. It causes me to have trouble sleeping at nighr because of it and im looking for answers. Please someone help.
This is the same thing that happens to me but I don't even hear the song although it still plays in my but if I try to stop it just even the thought will add another song.as I type I have 2 songs playing in my head.I've heard them before but not during the or even this week and its not like its the while song it just one part.I'm only 13 and this has been happening to since I can remember its troubled my sleeping hours and my consintration.it really starts to mess me up when its guite.like when I was taking test I would have 2 or 3 songs in the background.I don't know what's wrong with me but I've tried to stop it by listening to the end or the song but it feels like I have 2 control sticks over my mind.and like one of them is jammed.and its always jammed until I even think of something that can relate to this it just gets stuck like a broken record.pin really getting tired of this to the point when I'm alone and this happens I scream in my own mind.but it won't shut up.ever.I don't know how to stop it.but if anyone could say that it wasn't a big deal then clearly its never happen to them.although it may just be justin bieber to Beyonce it still their.and won't stop.I feel as if its gotten so bad for me my mind has just started to reating a number of words in the same order that I heard that same day.I swear I need help this has just got out of hand.
With me it is always the last song I heard, but the way I am different is that I substitute lyrics about hatred or my ass or something obscene or vulgar. I sing constantly about hating Jesus because of my suffering and the suffering of others in the world. I cannot turn it off. It is worse when I am alone, because then I actually sing this crap out loud for hours (or however long I am alone). I don't know what is wrong with me, but clearly I need help.
I have the same problem but its always the last song I hear. I am careful to turn off certain commercials I hear or the stupid music will loop. It does turn off if I substitute something like watching something on Youtube.
I've been trying brown noise to counter this but sometimes my mind will overcome it and I have to turn the volume up, the music usually lasts for a while, especially when I take a shower or do something menial. Thanks for writing this, I'm thinking of getting help for my (undiagnosed) borderline personality disorder and this just gives me another reason to stop delaying.
Thank you so much. Wow
I constantly have music playing in my head and not always the same song. It can switch from song to song in seconds. It is entirely frustrating. I have found that if I play the song slowly it may go away.
I have bipolar type 2 and I just Googled the terms song stuck in your head and the second thing that came up was your article. Before I had medication the loop of song was in the foreground of my mind every second but always competed with every thought that I had. It was the first thing in my mind when I would start to wake up in the morning. Even in the middle of the night when I was sleeping and I would wake slightly in order to turn over in bed the song would be blasting away. Now that I take medication ( lamotrigine and escitalopram) the songs have seemed to become quieter and more in the background of my mind but when I listen to music I always notice that the next day they are still pretty intrusive. I think I will talk to my psychiatrist about this and see if increasing the dose of Lamotrigine might help. Thank you so much for this article. It's good to know that I'm not alone!
I've had the same exact song, (I don't even like) play over & over for MONTHS & about at my wits end - I am literally being driven crazy! Anyone know how to stop this? Suffering!
Linda, I have the same problem happening. No matter what's going on around me, the same lyrics are replaying over and over and over again. I have headaches from it when it happens. It can go for days. It's driving me crazy as well. I don't know what to do about it either.
I have this, and I love it because I am a dancer and always have music to move to. Always. If you want to stop what I call "feedback loop" you simply put the song on repeat until the song leaves your head. Longest run was 15 hours , but then it goes away. I enjoy this gift, but people who hear and sing non stop do not. Oh well!!
So I'm facing this problem for last 5 year .
As a profession I'm a dj n producer .
From morning to evening I'm in to music totally .
In day I work for a online music company n in night I play in different clubs .
N coz of this problem I can not sleep can't think , whenever I close my eyes its play any song from anywhere .
I know thousands of songs that's the problem
In morning my mind play easy listening
Day rock night edm n when I'm trying to sleep all mix up .
I'm fucking so irritated n planning to quit my all work n start something new away from music .
Any good adavice plz
I put my brain on lockdown when a stupid song tries to penetrate the recesses of my mind and take hold. This involves one of two things:
1. Classical music. My go-to song is, and always will be, Bethoven's 7th Symphony, Second Movement (Alegretto) and, as long as I'm not feeling down, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (though I prefer to avoid the latter if I'm in a sad mood as it can be detrimental to my state of mind).
I should add however that I never indulge in trash (92% of modern) music intentionally. It's usually due to a co-worker, or a movie I'm watching (though I've been avoiding these more often as well since they're going in the same direction as the music), or while in a public area where they're playing this garbage that I pick up some brain draining song. It's no wonder there's tons of American's today who don't even know what WWII was, don't know the capital of their own country, can't name more than two presidents, have no idea when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, or when the Declaration of Independence was penned, and are becoming generally stupider by the second... though in retrospect the ignorant do make much better consumers. So from a capitalist standpoint they're building a treasure trove of blabbering brain-dead simpletons. I'm not angry saying this. I'm almost brought to tears by the stark truth of it.
Sorry, I'm drifting into the dark recesses of my mind and trying to drag you along for the ride.
2. Read up on the latest breakthroughs in science. Primarily quantum physics or quantum mechanics, though I do like learning about new discoveries and revelations in the clinical and astronomical realms as well. Essentially, delving though-provoking things that interest you, but that may also perhaps challenge you to expand your mind a bit.
I don't believe this should be limited to scientific however, but I believe it could work for other interests that offer a bit of challenge. Perhaps you like to knit and want to challenge yourself with a new pattern that is complex to master. Or perhaps you enjoy puzzles and should try a more difficult level. Forcing your mind to focus on something of interest that actually challenges the mind has a tendency, for myself at least, to take out the trash.
I don't remember when it started. I do know for some odd reason I am a whiz at name that tune. Two notes into a song and I can name it. For the last several years I have songs play on my head and it is whatever I heard last. Plays and plays and never ends just jumps to the next song or even commercial jingle or just a rhythm . It never stops. I have a very slight ringing in my ear which I can only hear when I lay down to sleep . If I concentrate on that ringing the music will finally stop long enough for me to falll asleep. I don't think I am bipolar but have suffered with anxiety and depression for several years also. Seems logical that there is a connection. I am so thankful to read alll your stories so I know it's not just me.
Empathy to all of you who are troubled by this tiresome phenomenon. I have suffered from anxiety and lots of mental / emotional issues throughout my adult life. Following a major breakdown four years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD. I think it was a well-reasoned diagnosis, but my own subsequent investigations led me to understand that I had in fact been afflicted by toxic metal poisoning, which induces / mimics all kinds of mental and physical illnesses.
Anyway. I have had music loops in my head all my adult life. Among other styles of music I like sixties rock, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want 'Heroes & Villains' by the Beach Boys playing constantly in my head for five years, as it did in my twenties. My current constantly-looping songs are Lady Friend by the Byrds and And Your Bird Can Sing by the Beatles. Can't really switch 'em off. They might go quiet if I'm distracted, but if I'm on my own, especially in transit, they swell up reliable as clockwork.
The only 'cure' for this problem I have found is meditation. In my particular case, the technique of 'insight meditation' or 'Vipassana' as it's called. It is very powerful, sorting out the clutter and creating wide-open spaces in your head so your mind can relax and breathe. It's very deep mind/body work and can potentially be 'too much' for people who haven't previously attempted some form of formalised self-examination (e.g. cathartic therapy), but it can also be tremendously liberating, from many 'demons', but also from endlessly playing songs. I haven't practiced for a while, but I'm about to get back to it.
Please look it up, it may be of use to you.
It's heartening to know that I'm not alone in this constant playing of music in my head--classical, fiddle tunes, songs, whatever. They only go away when I'm thinking verbally. It's like the right side of the brain is completely independent of the left--and they do function somewhat that way normally. I do meditation, and that kind of focusing on the breath makes both the music and the other thoughts go away, but it's only temporary. In fact, since I've been doing more and more mediation, the earworms are more constant, I think because the aimless, meandering thoughts are less. The best I can do is when I'm aware of the earworm, I try to shift my attention to the hear and now of my breathing and what I'm doing--without thinking about it.
For as long as I can remember I've always had music playing constantly in my head. It's always been more like background music. If I need to concentrate I have no problem shutting it off but otherwise when I choose to "tune in" it's like a constant radio station! I can even "change stations" by skipping from one song to another. I've always wondered about this. It doesn't really bother me, I just think it's weird. I guess I can say I've always got my own entertainment.
I have always had a song stuck in my head ever since I can remember, but I never really realized it until I got older. I mean I knew I always had a song stuck in my head, but I never really paid attention to it, it was just there. Now as a 29 year old woman it drives me crazy sometimes. I never goes away. It can be any song, rap, pop, country, old, new, etc. I don't even have to listen to music everyday to have a song stuck in my head. Songs just randomly come to me, when I'm in the shower, when I am cooking, when I am working, even if I am sad or angry I can't help it. I can be crying my eyes out and the song is still there playing in the back of my head. I can be thinking about something and the damn song is still there playing over and over. Even if it is a song from a commercial. I find myself singing and humming a lot when I am at home. I even come up with my own beats and songs in my head. I can't ever concentrate to go to sleep, therefore I suffer from chronic insomnia. I have even woken up to songs and music that I was dreaming about. I am no singer or musician, but I believe that if I ever took up any singing classes I would be good at it. I feel I have a pretty descent voice. I might even be great at playing instruments. Music was always something I loved, I just never pursued it. Living in poverty my whole life, I just never had the chance or opportunity, but I am still young. I don't want to be like a famous singer or anything, but I think if I just try something different maybe I will cured. Maybe I am not crazy after all, like I feel sometimes. By the way the song playing in my head right now is Lady Gaga You and I. Don't know where it came from since I haven't heard that song in a while and I am not such a huge fan of Lady Gaga. I have had it in my head I would say for about 3-4 days and I keep waking and going to sleep to it, well barely sleeping. Hopefully the song will go away soon I am tired of it and on the next song. I feel like it takes over my life sometimes. I just cant rid of it for good.
My latest earworm is All Over You by Live. I really like that song, but I wish it would stop!
Been tormented by this my whole life. My current perpetually playing song is called two weeks by a band called all that remains.
I've never been properly diagnosed with whatever is wrong with me other than anxiety and depression because last time I've seen a mental health professional was when I was a child. I know I also am fairly sure I'm either psychic or schitzofrenic or something but I need to get it under control, I start a new job tomorrow which is also probably keeping me awake although the darn song playing is no help. Somehow it just changed to a song by breaking Benjamin called diary of Jane. I hate this song so much. I can't hold jobs easily and can't even find my way there without using GPS on my phone to and from work for about a month straight until I get the navigational part of driving to work beat into my brain. It's hard to hide my problems from employers that's why I have no health insurance. Tomorrow I start a new job and I hope the insurance starts soon
Also my name is Stan but my family messed me up from the day I was born by calling me Jake after my uncle Jake whose name was also Stan, I have no family anymore I dunno what's wrong with me please help if any of this applies to you and you actually HAVE been properly diagnosed
There is no such thing as bipolar. These symptoms are caused by trauma and a society out of alignment with natural law due to statism, or the mixed economy -- namely cronyism and state for profit welfare.
Hello fellow sufferers,
My name is Matthew and I've had this same problem for 6 months or more now. I don't even know when it first started. The current song is a fragment of "Trouble" by Wade Bowen. "I wish trouble always looked that good... I wish trouuuuuughble always looked that GOOD...repetitive instrumental" I heard this song a few days ago and it became my new permanent this early morning. It feels so bad. I try to take control of my mind, even calling upon God but I have no victory. God is not helping me with this problem. I do not know if you all are believers or not in Jesus Christ but I am and even though God is not helping me with this specific problem I will still believe. As I am typing this my symptom is being alleviated which I thank God for. I hope we all find a cure to this awful affliction.
I've had non-stop music playing in my head for years and years. Like, at least 35 years. It gets louder and more fast tempo when I'm over tired and stressed out. It keeps me from sleeping. If I wake up, it's right there. Occasionally it does that when I'm trying to concentrate on work. I have been medicated and not medicated for depression, anxiety, bipolar and ADHD. I'm currently off meds. Music was always there on meds and still there off meds. No change at all.
I doubt I'd want to make it go away completely, but I'm curious to know what it would be like if my head were just...quiet... Ahhhh
I've had music playing for 50 years. I am bipolar, ADHD , OCD, ptsd and on Meds. Still the music plays, more often when I'm stressed. So..I took up music and now can manipulate the type, rythym, and sound. It may not work for everyone, but music is a powerful mathematic arrangement, and you might look into deciphering music for yourselves. Some of you sound so trapped and frustrated. What's to lose? You may have a gift and it's never too late. I began to play early in life and gave it up for sports. Now music learning, albeit a bit of work, is opening up a part of my mind, eventually I'll write this music down and own it, rather than it bothering me.
Hi, I'm 63 and suffered depression for 25 years plus. The music that plays in my right ear is instrumental, brass band type music, ranging from the Welsh national anthem to pop music. It is quite depressing to be standing in a store looking at something whilst this is happening.
I am moderately deaf in both ears and I am starting to feel very isolated and vulnerable for some reason. I do not mix very well but my psychiatrist thinks that I am getting better; but I must not give up hope, as that is all that is left in the box. Happy Christmas to everyone wherever you are.
I don't even know how to ask Google this question. I don't think I'm bipolar or have OCD, but for about a year now I have been singing The Star Spangled Banner all day everyday. It just pops into my head, and sometimes I start singing it out loud without noticing. I never even hear that song. Why is it in my head? Why do I always sing it?!
I'm 40 and have had instrumental earworms just about every day since I was a child. I always thought of it as a score to my life. For years, I found it comforting. But in the last few years, I've been increasingly bothered by shorter and shorter earworms. Instead of loops of 20-30 seconds, I'll get a mere bar of 4-5 seconds of some instrumental theme. At the moment, I've got the title score to the show The Crown in a loop. Hans Zimmer stuff easily embeds in my brain. (Dark Knight, Inception, dozens more)
So I've been on dozens of different anti-depressants for persistent clinical depression for half my life. I've tried just about everything. For a few months, I took pramipexole (brand name Mirapex), usually prescribed for restless leg syndrome but also off-label for depression. I found it dulled my mood too much to the point that I came off of it. But now I realize that it significantly reduced my earworms, as now they're back with a vengeance.
Anyway, I needed somewhere to share this. Thanks to Natasha's 4-year-old post for providing a place to do so...
Wow it's so good to read that others share my musical dilemma. Have had this a few years and have been searching for answers. I still have a tune in my head from 4 days ago. Sometimes lasts longer. Sometimes can n replaced with another song. Very annoying.