Broken Record Syndrome

I woke up this morning with a song playing incessantly in my head.  It wasn’t even the whole song, just a portion of the refrain.  I sang it in the shower, while cooking breakfast, and even until I got on my bike and put my headphones on.

I always wonder about the songs that run through our brains.  Why is it those particular songs?  Are our brains tuned in to some radio station somewhere in the world and we “hear” when those songs are being played?  If so, how does that account for the broken record syndrome that often happens?  I don’t know if there’s a more scientific name for that, but I know you all know what I mean by Broken Record Syndrome.  😉

Is there something in our psyche that will play the same bit of a song over and over until our conscious mind finally clicks and picks up on the message?  If so, why can’t we receive the message sooner, so we’re not crying for want of anything else to hear in our internal soundtrack.  It doesn’t matter what the song is; even your favorite song gets annoying when it’s permanently set on “loop” in your head for several hours.

What about people in foreign countries?  Does this phenomenon happen to them too?  I can’t imagine it’s an entirely American thing.  Imagine the sounds and songs running through your head if you lived in the Middle east, where your music was some woman rolling her tongue in a high-pitched tone .  Or, what if the song that just wouldn’t end in your head was some Swedish yodel you’d heard recently. {shudder}  Of course, those probably wouldn’t drive you crazy if you were from those countries where you’re used to that sort of music.  And my apologies if my description of those offended anyone – that definitely wasn’t my intention.  I’m just super-ignorant about the purpose of the yodeling or the tongue-trilling.

I wonder if there’s some scientist somewhere who has dedicated his/her life to figuring that phenomenon out.  On the one hand, how sad . . . but on the other, I applaud her/his efforts and am anxious to read the findings.

All kidding aside though, what is it in our head that makes you wake up one morning with a song playing over and over?  I could see it more if it was a song you’d actually heard on the radio whose refrain is so catchy that it monopolizes your brain space, but to wake up with one?  Sometimes I will actually have been dreaming about the song right before I wake up – which somewhat explains why it’s still in my head upon rising – but what about the times when I wasn’t dreaming about it?  Or, maybe I did dream about the song, but didn’t remember that dream.  Either way, it’s darn frustrating when you can’t get it out of your head . . . just ask Phoebe from Friends.

I’ve tried singing the song all the way through, hoping that would help ease it from my mind.  Sometimes it does help, but other times, it’s a no-go.  There are also times when I’ve been successful in shooing the song from my head for several hours, but something later in my day triggers the switch again.  That’s almost worse than not being able to expunge it in the first place.  I almost never ask others to help me get a song out of my head.  I used to work at Disney, and know how dangerous a request that is.  To this day, whenever people tell me they have something stuck in their head, it’s almost second-nature for me to “help” them by singing It’s a Small World.  I usually refrain from it though, because I want them to still like me.  😉

Some part of me – again, not meaning to be cruel – wonders if this sort of thing is what people with autism experience every day, on a much grander scale, of course.  If so, are they frustrated by it, or is that such a part of them that they don’t know what the difference would feel like?

These are mostly-rhetorical questions, but if you have answers to any of them, please feel free to share.  Maybe learning what this syndrome is really called can help me to overcome it more easily when it shows up again.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana Fredsti
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 09:55:28

    HAHAHAH! Okay, I call this syndrome the Brain Worm and am SOOO familiar with it. For me, it’s so random. Sometimes it’s a song I’ve recently listened to (right now I have the rollicking “How to Train Your Dragon” score in my head), but one day on the beach I observed my brain cycling through “I’m a little teapot”, “Three Blind Mice”, and a song from Reefer Madness. No rhyme or reason to it. I almost wrote a post about it. 🙂 I tend to use other songs to dislodge especially annoying brainworms. And having worked at Disney, I very much agree with the dangers inherent… Small World. UGH!!!

    Wish I had more solid answers for you!


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 24, 2011 @ 09:58:51

      LOL “I’m a Little Teapot”…*snort* That would get old VERY quickly, since it’s such a short song.

      Brain Worm works too, Dana, & I’m not surprised that we’ve almost written duplicate posts. 😉

      Thanks for visiting today.


  2. Elaine Davis
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 10:04:03

    That happens to me all the time. What I do is purposely start a different one in my head wiping out the original song. If I’m lucky, the second song doesn’t stick! It’s a variation of the hair of the dog that bit you.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 24, 2011 @ 10:05:38

      Yeah, sometimes that works for me too, Elaine…but not always.

      I like the “hair of the dog” comment…maybe it could be called a “Melody Hangover” too. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by.


  3. jane vasarhelyi
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 15:34:58

    Alyx, I went to a shrink for my repetitive songs and he told me it can be a symptom of very mild (or, I guess, not so mild, too) OCD. He gave me some medicine and voila –no more Chrismas songs playing in my head in April.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 25, 2011 @ 07:15:29

      LOL Glad the Christmas songs aren’t invading in April anymore, but that’s interesting to learn that it’s a symptom of OCD…I know I have some other mild OCD tendencies, so maybe that’s another one of them.

      Thanks for visiting, Jane.


  4. Marilyn Levinson
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 18:16:05

    Lately, a tune has been running through my head. I don’t know when or where I heard it last. And when I try to hum it, it turns into something else.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 25, 2011 @ 07:18:03

      Wow, Marilyn…that’s interesting. I can’t say that I’ve ever had that phenomenon happen to me. I have, however, dreamed of a song before I heard it. It was Billy Joel’s River of Dreams. I’d had a dream about the very things he sings about, & then heard the song on the radio about a week later. It was such a surreal moment, I had to pull the car over to make sure I didn’t hurt anyone.

      Thanks for visiting!


  5. Kaye George
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 19:13:11

    It’s called an earworm. Believe it or not, studies are being done! Google “ear worm studies” and, after the stuff about corn, you’ll see what I mean. My solution is Jingle Bells.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 25, 2011 @ 07:13:36

      Wow! Thanks for letting me know that, Kaye! It’s kind of a gross name for the affliction, but still cool that people are trying to figure out why it happens to us.

      Jingle Bells would certainly get it out of my head…but then I’d have Jingle Bells looping through there. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by.


      • Kaye George
        Jun 25, 2011 @ 09:11:28

        Yep, then it’s Jingle Bells. Actually, the one usually looping for me is Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach. I think of it as my usual background. But sometimes something pops up that’s original. Then I have to write it down, just like I do story ideas when they pop up. (Did I mention I’m a musician?:)) Interesting mention of OCD. Something to think about! I’ll bet a lot of writer are OCD–otherwise how could we stick with it?

  6. Alyx Morgan
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 09:32:21

    I bet you’re right, Kaye…about the OCD/author connection.

    How cool that you’re a musician as well!


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