I Talk to Myself Incessantly; Is Part of This Bipolar?
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.
Kornreich, C. et al. (2001). Impaired emotional facial expression recognition in bipolar disorder: a preliminary study. European Psychiatry.
Dilsaver, S. C., & Akiskal, H. S. (1989). Comorbidity of anxiety disorders in bipolar illness: an update. Psychiatric Clinics.
- Poyurovsky, M. et al.(2010). Obsessive-compulsive disorder in hospitalized patients with bipolar disorder: clinical correlates and implications for pharmacotherapy. Bipolar Disorders.
Purdon, C., & Clark, D. A. (1993). Overcoming obsessive thoughts: Strategies for individuals. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy.
Tracy, N. (2023, April 18). I Talk to Myself Incessantly; Is Part of This Bipolar?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2023/4/i-talk-to-myself-incessantly-is-part-of-this-bipolar
Author: Natasha Tracy
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 :)
Thanks for chiming in.
If you're interested, here are 20 mindfulness exercises that might work as part of your plan with your therapist: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2020/1/20-mindfulness-exercises-to…
I wish you mental health too.
-- Natasha Tracy
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.
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