Archive for the ‘songs stuck in your head’ Category

Here I am, still fighting the ebb and flow of this recent recurrence of the stuck music (auditory memory loops/AMLs). (I now suspect I have gotten a bad box of estrogen patches, and will see if this resolves when I start on the new box.) Meanwhile, I decided to try searching OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) sites for new perspectives.

Do I really have OCD?

The first thing I looked at was a self test for OCD.  I failed miserably (or should I say “happily”). Classic OCD is associated with repetitive rituals (like locking the door the “right” number of times, or incessant hand washing) and a lot of dark thoughts and fears. The TV character Adrian Monk had OCD (among other issues). His list of fears/phobias began with “Germs, needles, milk, death….”  Yes, in that order.

I apparently don’t have OCD in the sense these tests define it. I have no rituals, no dark thoughts, and no phobias/fears other than: (a) spiders (since childhood), (b) 4-leaf clovers (long story), and, most important, (c) the fear of having songs stuck in my head again and not being able to enjoy…or even truly live life.

OCD – Melanie’s Article

Despite my apparent lack of OCD symptoms,  I searched for OCD and hormones and came up with a fabulous article from Melanie Gladney’s HubPage.  http://melaniegladney.hubpages.com/hub/OCD-Glucose-Metabolism-and-Food-Allergies This focuses on classical OCD, but offers suggestions that may work for some of us as well. It is certainly worth a shot.

OCD and Hormones

In this article, she discusses the same hormonal influences I’ve identified, but she adds important dimensions to the discussion, including information about key brain chemicals that the sex hormones trigger.

She emphasizes the role of progesterone in calming anxieties. Just keep in mind that, for me at least, there is a very narrow sweet spot for progesterone levels: if I get too much (relative to estrogen), it actually brings on the stuck music.  But as we know, we all have different body chemistries and reactions, so keep progesterone in your toolbox and use it carefully, like everything else.

OCD and Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance and Cortisol 

More important, Melanie covers in great detail the role of blood sugar/metabolism and  food allergies as they may relate to OCD. Her suggestions about diet require more self discipline than I am easily capable of, but they have worked for her OCD, so please check them out and see if her suggestions might work for you.

Remember that high cortisol can not only trigger or exacerbate the AMLs, it can induce insulin resistance (which Melanie talks about in easy-to-understand detail). So maybe it’s not the cortisol directly that affects our AMLs after all, but the insulin/metabolic conditions that result from that cortisol overload. Maybe regulating blood sugar and/or insulin is, in fact, the answer…or at least part of it.

Is it that simple? Probably not.

From a logical standpoint, it seems that if blood sugar, food allergies, and insulin resistance were truly at the root of this (in my case, at least), then I should not have been able to get rid of the AMLs when I implemented my current hormone regimen, because I did not change my diet. The only things I changed were: (1) I took cortisol suppressing supplements, and (2) I created a mini hormone cycle with a surge of estrogen 24 hours before I took my progesterone.

This same kind of reasoning told me that it’s not just cortisol that triggers the AMLs, because I have been way more stressed in my younger life (i.e., had tons of adrenalin and cortisol surging through my body) and yet I did not get songs stuck in my head.  This only started when my sex hormones went south at menopause…and it only went away again when I mimicked a youthful hormone cycle.

Then again, the most obvious difference between the identical twin boys who shared most everything except the AMLs was that the one who had the AMLs turned out to have a then-undiagnosed metabolic disorder involving insulin resistance. The mom obtained the diagnosis after reading about the cortisol/metabolic connection to AMLs here and taking her son in for relevant tests. So, clearly the AMLs and metabolic dysfunction are closely linked.

Visit Melanie

The bottom line is that Melanie and I seem to be running down the same rabbit hole, chasing the same two suspects–sex hormone imbalances and dysfunctional metabolic/adrenal processes–from slightly different perspectives. So I encourage you to check out her hub. (You can read the articles but may have to join HubPages.com to comment.) And write to her if you think she can help. She seems to be very generous in responding.

And if any of you try her suggestions, please keep us posted on the results, whether positive, negative or neutral.

Wishing you a blissfully quiet day.


BTW, Last night I attended a lecture by a neuroscientist, and he has promised to put me in touch with someone he thinks might be able to help us or at least can point us to someone else who might. Cross your fingers…


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I guess there’s a price to pay for getting too cocky. I’ve mentioned several times that I seem to be the only one among us who can turn the AMLs (auditory memory loops) on and off. Well, I suppose to remind me of the horrors all of you are still suffering, I recently had a relapse and had the opportunity to refresh my memory…over and over and over and… well you know.

This relapse happened in the wake of conditions that may have directly or indirectly contributed to the problem.

1.  I had just finally recovered from a 2-month vertigo episode, the worse I’ve ever had. This condition might not have triggered the AMLs, but it certainly stressed me out, pumping cortisol into my system for two months.

2.  During the vertigo episode I took Valium for a couple of days. (It and other drugs like it can stabilize the inner ear’s balance centers.) But when I realized it was making me nauseated, I quit. Toward the end of the episode I took Xanax (related to Valium) every night to help suppress the spinning in my sleep. I worried about taking these drugs because so many of us only started the AMLs after taking SSRIs and other brain drugs.

3. In the last 2 weeks of the vertigo I had a short-fuse video project. Not only was I stressed (producing cortisol), but I was listening to the same 3 short songs over and over again for a week as we edited the video together.

4. I had cut back on the phosphatidyl serine (PS) that reduces cortisol and provides healthy fats to the brain.

Having heard your stories and thought more about the OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) connection, I paid closer attention to what I was feeling when the AMLs came back this time.

  • I was physically antsy, a feeling I know I get when either my potassium is low or when my hormones are messed up.
  • I felt as if there was an “openness” or a gaping hole in the middle of my brain, or that there was a thinness of the wall between that open part in the center of my brain and everything else.
  • That hole was like an open sore that was exposed to anything in my environment that might “infect” it and get stuck there.  I felt totally vulnerable to falling into other forms of OCD, not just the music. (Some of you have progressed into classic OCD.)
  • I also noticed that I was waking up with the crazy repetitive dreams (making a list, recalling names) and/or the music, all happening around 3 am…the classic, low estrogen wake-up time. I also had other low E symptoms, like heatwaves, itchy-crawly scalp and ears, and stupid brain.
  • I had trouble going out to restaurants and places that played music. I realized that my awareness of music wasn’t just me being cautious about music around me. No, the music literally seemed to attach itself to me more aggressively.  I was having lunch with a friend and had to step outside when a certain obnoxious song came on. When I got back, he said he hadn’t even noticed the music.  He said “You’ve got to do something about your hearing.” “Like what” I asked. “Like…go deaf,” he said.  It made me laugh. But the point is that his brain was able to tune it out, as mine normally would. Instead, for me it seemed as if not only was my brain open but it was aggressively seeking out and sucking the music in. And, all jokes aside, my going deaf would not have stopped the AMLs because this is not about “hearing;” it’s about replaying things stored in the auditory memory…even things we’ve never heard with our ears.

So I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I finally suspected my estrogen patches weren’t working and I hoped and prayed this was also why the AMLs had come back with a vengeance. I have had problems with defective patches and/or possible permeability issues with the area of skin where I stuck my patches. So I put more patches on. And for a couple of days, the AMLs would go away.

I have finally ended that screwed-up hormone cycle and have started over with new patches in a new spot and have had no further problems with the AMLs.


Now, it would be easy to think you just need more estrogen and the AMLs will go away. But it’s not that simple.

Estrogen (at least in theory) merely creates receptors so the progesterone (P) in your system can break down into the sex hormones instead of adrenal hormones like cortisol.

But what about men with AMLs? Are they low in E relative to their P? We have no data to tell us one way or the other.

However, one new friend of the blog, a 20-year-old male, has just had a ton of lab tests done recently (including sex hormones and cortisol) and promises to send me a copy of the results. I may be able to spot nuances in the ratios or levels that doctors aren’t typically looking for.

Another new friend of the blog is a pregnant woman who began having the AMLs in her 6th month.

Both of their stories present very strong evidence of hormonal components associated with the AML/OCD symptoms. His initial labs, for example, say he’s got normal levels of a key hormone, but other symptoms tell me he is severely low. I hope our pregnant friend can also send lab results so I can see if perhaps her hormone ratios might be off, with too little E relative to the amount of P being made by the placenta.

At any rate, I am back to normal for now, having relived the terror of wondering whether I’d ever get that madness out of my head and be normal again. And my empathy has been renewed for all of you who are still suffering.

Curiously, I noticed a song in my head yesterday. But this felt different. It felt as if it was in the front of my head, instead of in that gaping, sucking hole in the center. (In fact I don’t feel that hole is there at all.) The song did not feel sticky or disruptive. It didn’t yell. It was just a small, well-behaved, pleasant memory floating around harmlessly in the stream of lots of other quiet thoughts.

I wish this same state of tranquility for all of you.


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It just occurred to me that some of you who have recently found this blog may have missed some of the basic concepts and the details regarding my cortisol/hormone hypothesis and the solutions that may help.

So I encourage you to go back and read some of the older posts, especially the Original Part 1 and 2, which are here in the March 2010 archives.


But also read some of the other posts in the archives as well.  These will fill you in on what others have tried, what works, what seems to make things worse, etc.  I’m not exactly sure where I talk about my hormone mini-cycles that finally got rid of the stuck music (auditory memory loops or AMLs), but you might look for that post as well.

Meanwhile, I need to figure out a way to keep a link to the basic posts easily accessible on all new posts so anyone who finds us can learn about the core concepts right away.

I’ll update you all later about how I got my AMLs quieted down after the recent recurrence that kept me awake at night.

Wishing you peace and quiet.



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As those who follow this blog know, I have found a combination of solutions that has kept the music out of my head for most of the past 2+ years now.

But I didn’t really know which parts were necessary, so I tried taking one part out: the phosphatidyl serine (PS). I didn’t stop it completely, but reduced my daily dose from 300 mg to 150 mg.  It seemed to be fine, as I’d been on this reduced dose for about a month and had had no problems.

However, I was only cautiously optimistic because PS takes a long time to build up in your brain, and presumably would take an equally long time to deplete.

In the meantime, I took on a rather manic project to produce a video in just a few days to support a proposal for one of my clients.  A few days stretched into a week when they got an extension and asked us to add a couple of animations to the video. And with the video goes music, three short pieces. And so for a week of sometimes 12+ hour days, I sat with my video editor making cut after cut, tweak after tweak…all with the music bits playing along with the images onscreen, sometimes even editing the music to make it fit the visuals.

So not only was I pumping out tons of cortisol to stay on my toes and try to figure out what key concepts from two 100-page proposals needed to be conveyed  in this brief 6 minute piece, but I was drumming the same 6 minutes of music into my head over and over in that high cortisol state.

Granted, that alone should have earned me this current soundtrack. But I fear that cutting back the PS may have been really bad timing. We finished the video last Friday, but the music didn’t stick right away. It has been slowly creeping in a little more each day, mostly in the morning then fading out… until today, when  it  has really become bothersome, intruding into my thoughts. It is now 3:00 in the afternoon and the music is finally calming down now. Then again, I took 200 mg of PS at 10 am. I don’t think the PS can possibly work that fast, but it may be a factor, for what it’s worth.

So just in case cutting back on the PS has played any part in this recent recurrence of the AMLs, I’ve decided to go back to 300 mg of PS daily until I am far enough away from a music-loop-inducing situation that I can try weaning off the PS again and see what happens.

I’ll keep you posted on this ongoing science experiment in my brain.

Wishing you peace and quiet,


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This is not good news for one of our most troubled sufferers.  A young woman in her late 20s, whom I will call “X,” has struggled with the stuck music approximately since the birth of her second child.  Now a distressing new symptom has popped up.

Over the years I have known her through our correspondence, I have seen her mental capacity decline because of the incessant songs playing in her head and the lack of sleep this causes. She has been to numerous doctors, none of whom have the first clue as to how to treat this phenomenon.

We did determine (through a home saliva test)  that her cortisol levels were elevated. But she cannot take the Relora that can help lower cortisol because it made her too groggy. She is apparently hypersensitive to all substances.

Now she has developed a symptom that clearly seems to be a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Most neurologists consider the stuck music (also called “ear worms,”  “broken record syndrome,” “auditory memory loops/AMLs,” or “musical hallucinations”) to be a form of OCD.

They may be right, though I have been able to control mine by manipulating my hormone replacement therapy, which suggests that it may be important to find out what impact hormone levels have on OCD in general.

The symptom that X has now developed involves the compulsion to breathe into her hand to smell her breath. I haven’t heard of any other AML sufferers developing additional OCD symptoms but I suspect it is quite possible and they may simply have not made the connection or bothered to mention them.

If any of you have more traditional obsessions or compulsions in conjunction with your stuck music/AMLs, let us know.

And if you’ve tried drugs (or any other solutions) for OCD and have found relief, please share with us so that perhaps people like X can find some peace.

For me, the holidays have always been torturous because of all the music played everywhere you go. Thanks to my new hormone regimen started around this time last year, this is the first year in 12 that I haven’t been plagued with the holiday music being stuck in my head.   I earnestly wish the same peace for all of you in the new year.

Happy holidays to you all!

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I haven’t added any new posts in a while because I had no new information. But for those of you still struggling with this problem, I now have an interesting insight that may or may not be helpful in your (and your doctors’) quest for quiet in your brain.

For those of you who don’t know, I have been struggling with the stuck music, or what I call auditory memory loops (AMLs), for going on 12 years now, ever since I went into menopause. After a solid year with multiple songs, words, and phrases constantly playing so loud I couldn’t hear my own thoughts, couldn”t sleep, and never having one minute of quiet, I thought I would literally go insane.  (And some of you have it much worse than I did!)

My solution for most of this time was to keep my hormones (progesterone and testosterone specifically) so low that the AMLs kept quiet. And for over 10 years I did not listen to the radio.

The (HUGE) downside to this was that I had not felt alive in 12 years. My creativity (I’m a writer) and my sex drive (I’m a human being) were gone completely. All my passions were gone. I could not truly feel the pleasure of a good movie or music or a visit with friends and loved ones. I knew intellectually that these things were pleasurable and I could say that I enjoyed them, but I couldn’t actually feel that enjoyment. And I hated this state. But the alternative was to feel alive and be tortured by that insane racket in my head. So I chose the state that allowed me to remain functional, even though it left me dead inside.

Throughout the years, I’ve discovered that taking the antidepressant Wellbutrin would also turn on the AMLs. Interestingly, Wellbutrin had many of the same effects on me as testosterone, including increasing my creativity and sex drive and decreasing my appetite.

But just in the past 3 months I have developed a new hormone regimen that gives me back my aliveness, my creativity and passion, without provoking the AMLs.

How my discovery might affect your individual cases, I don’t know, but here’s what I’ve got…

I had previously been taking a fairly steady low dose of both estrogen and progesterone, and that was sufficient to give me relief from menopausal symptoms and support my brain enough that I could function and do my job.

But I was curious about a certain protocol that mimics the normal 28-day cycle of hormones that would be seen in a woman of reproductive age. It is based, in part, on the fact (which I still have to confirm and understand from my doctor’s recommended textbooks) that our bodies (at least females) need a certain spike or a high enough level of estrogen in order to either make or open or sensitize our cells’ progesterone receptors.

I wondered whether my low, steady dose of E might have been too low to do whatever the E spike does to allow my body to use the P that I was taking. I wondered if some (or all) of the negative symptoms I was experiencing might be related to having a bunch of progesterone floating around in my system that wasn’t able to plug into the cells and turn on the desired actions. 

So in December of last year (2010), I started an experiment. I decided to use the same principles as the 28-day protocol, but instead I decided to do it over 2 weeks instead of 4.

Now, in the normal cycle, for the first half of the month, E sharply rises, hitting its peak on day 14, when ovulation occurs (when testosterone also peaks, causing a woman to feel more romantic in order to make a baby). After ovulation, the E drops off a bit and the ovary begins to produce a lot of P for 2 weeks. In the middle of that 2nd half of the month (around days 19-21), there’s a little extra bounce of E. After that, both E and P drop off for the rest of the month (assuming no pregnancy). Then you get your period and the cycle starts over. 

So in my mini-cycle, on Day 1 I take a double dose of E. I give that a day to get into my system, theoretically making/sensitizing P receptors. Then on Day 2, I take another dose of E to simulate the mid-cycle spike of E, and I add my dose of P for the cycle.  Around Day 6-7 I start to feel some low-E symptoms, so I add another dose of E, which simulates the little E bounce. Then I let the levels of both just drop off for the rest of the cycle.

What has happened as a result is that:

  • I have started to feel alive and creative again. My passions are back!
  • I no longer get the little rash on my face that I would get when I’d take my progesterone each week.
  • I no longer get the red, itchy allergic reaction to my estrogen patches.
  • And most important to all of you…I can now listen to music all day long and it doesn’t get stuck in my head!!!

So for you women, I might suggest that you and your doctors look at whether you are getting that E spike in your cycles. (Or if you are menopausal, you could try my HRT protocol.)  My 27-year-old daughter started having AMLs and I’ve wondered if it was because her birth control hormones had her on a relatively steady dose of E, taking away her normal E spike.

For you men, I don’t know how to leverage my discovery to help you, since although you do make estrogen,  I seriously doubt that you have anything remotely like an E spike or even a hormonal cycle of any kind. But my doctor did say that both progesterone and testosterone work better in the presence of estrogen. So maybe you and your doctors might want to consider looking at your hormone levels (estrogen progesterone and testosterone).

Normally, your doctor would think nothing of unusually low E levels in a man (if the doc even tested for E), thinking that it’s probably better if they are low. But what if your E levels are really too low to open/sensitize your P or T receptors, and your P and/or T are floating around without a home and are doing things they shouldn’t?

It is possible that my cortisol theory may still be in play here somehow. If the lack of an E spike (or a sufficient level of E) prevents P from plugging into receptors for the sex hormones, it may be that the P is then even more likely to attach to the receptors for the corticosteroids like cortisol and adrenalin and turn on the production of those hormones instead.

I will have to dig into those med school textbooks my doc recommended to find out what the actual mechanisms at work are in both men and women…assuming they are even known.

Meanwhile, I have ordered several over-the-counter hormone saliva tests. Now that I’ve settled into a hormone regimen that seems to work and is repeatable, my doc and I want to know how my unusual use of these hormone products translates into hormone levels in my system at key points in the mini-cycle.

We’re completely off the map now, charting new territory. I just hope this ends up helping some of you to stop the noise in your heads and get back to a normal life.

To peace and quiet!

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One of these days I will start going back and telling the stories of each of us who have come together over this crazy affliction. For now I want to introduce the two newest members of our unfortunate group.

First there’s BRIAN.

He’s been dealing with the auditory memory loops (AMLs) for 6 years and says they are destroying his life. 

He thinks the AMLs started when he began taking antianxiety medications, mood stabilizers and antidepressants. He is not the first of us who has suspected that brain drugs may have triggered the AMLs.

His working hypothesis is that the Klonopin (benzodiazapine) has depleted his brain of neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, triggering a form of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).  If that were the case, though, then anything that replaces serotonin should quiet our brains, and so far I haven’t seen any patterns indicating this it true for those who have tried SSRIs.

However, if the AMLs are related to serotonin depletion, then taking something like the supplement 5-HTP (which is what the tryptophan in meats like turkey breaks down into on its way to producing serotonin) should calm them down.

(BTW, If anybody decides to try the 5-HTP, please let me know what happens.)

For Brian, the only things that seem to help are cycling until his heart rate is very high and watching TV.

His loops seem to run in 3- to 5-second segments, unlike mine, which are usually about 15 seconds.

Our other new friend is MIMI.

She said she almost cried when she found us. I can understand…because there was nobody else out there when I started blogging about the phenomenon. Thankfully, you all have found me and we at least can share our experiences. And that’s what Mimi needed…to know she’s not alone.

Her AMLs started 2 1/2 years ago after having a partial hysterectomy. In most cases that means the uterus was removed but they left the ovaries intact to, ideally, keep them producing hormones. However, as I learned from writing my book about hormones and menopause, in about 50% of cases, the preserved ovaries shut down after surgery as a result of damage to nerves or blood vessels that support the ovaries.

If she is one of the unlucky ones who lost ovarian function after the surgery, then her story parallels mine in that her AMLs seem to have followed a dramatic drop in sex hormone levels.

Although I have my cortisol hypothesis which explains the very different effects of real and fake progesterone on the AMLs, it doesn’t explain why having all our hormones bottom out would have triggered our first episodes.  I now suspect there may also be at least one “protective” hormone whose deficiency makes us more vulnerable to the AMLs.

For Mimi, the AMLs weren’t the only problem she found herself coping with. She also started having major allergic skin reactions like hives. Lab tests showed she has Hashimoto’s disease…an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys the thyroid gland. 

I immediately suspected a connection to low progesterone. Progesterone is the first sex hormone we women will be deficient in, especially after 45 or after menopause or hysterectomy. And as it happens, one of progesterone’s major roles is to suppress/modulate the immune system, especially during pregnancy so our immune systems don’t attack our babies. Progesterone also supports the thyroid. So I have suggested that Mimi get her hormones tested and ask about supplementing progesterone.

The catch is that if she needs progesterone to calm down her autoimmune issues, then it is possible (according to my cortisol hypothesis) that the AMLs will get WORSE instead of better…unless we can find that “protective” hormone and raise its levels enough to prevent the music.

If she can’t take natural (bioidentical) progesterone because of the music in her head, then she may need to try synthetic progesterone, which increases the risk of breast cancer. Not a great choice.

She says she has been taking an antihistamine at bedtime for about 3 years, plus Pepcid every afternoon, and wonders if they might have had something to do with the AMLs. Tho I also take antihistamines to help me sleep, I think the more significant factor we have in common is the hormone depletion.

However, let me know if any of you also take antihistamines (like benadryl/diphenhydramine, dramamine, chlorpheniramine, zyrtec/cetirazine, etc.) or over the counter sleep aids (which also use antihistamines to make you sleepy). And if you do, did you start taking them before or after the AMLs started?

Like most of us, Mimi reports that the AMLs are worse when she is stressed. When she’s talking or reading or otherwise occupied, she doesn’t have them…which is fortunate.  She doesn’t have them when she dreams, but on nights when she isn’t dreaming the AMLs seem to fill the void.

Like most of us, she reports that the songs can come from a long time in the past, or may be tunes she just recently heard.

And, as we’ve all come to expect, her doctors don’t really know what to do. She has an appointment with another endocrinologist for her thyroid issues and will take the info from this blog to see if any of it might help the doctor figure this out.

As always, we hope both of new friends find solutions that work and give them the quiet they so desperately seek.

Have a peaceful day,


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