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Posts Tagged ‘broken record syndrome’

Since my last post, I have suffered less from the auditory memory loops (AMLs) (or broken record syndrome) than from a creeping anxiety that had come to consume me on a daily basis. So when an AML sufferer recently contacted me, telling me not only about his stuck music issues but also about his anxiety disorder, I thought it might be time to share my latest adventures with all of you.

 Anxiety

For several months I had been waking up scared every morning and spending most days seeing threats in every little situation throughout the day. My crazy circular thinking made me hyper-critical of everything, including my partner, who is a sweet, wonderful man. Though I tried to keep much of this from him, the constant overthinking/overanalyzing of my crazybrain tested the patience of those dear friends whose ears I bent nearly to the breaking point.

I knew something was wrong with me but I couldn’t stop the crazy thinking or the anxiety. So I embarked on a therapy fenzy. Maybe there were issues I’d need to work through with my sweetheart at the end of this journey, but first I needed to filter out my own dysfunctions.

Therapy Frenzy

At one point I was seeing 3 different psychologists, plus a life coach friend who uses techniques like neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy…all in hopes of calming my brain and my anxiety. I told them all that I felt like a small dinghy in the ocean, jostling wildly with every little fish fart nearby. I wanted instead to be like a big cruise ship that remains stable, cutting through all but the roughest seas.

I got some surprising insights from my friend and some useful perspectives from the therapists. But slowly I let go of each because the results failed to give me the kind of relief I so desperately needed.

OCD Behavioral Techniques

In the process, I learned about some behavioral techniques that have been used successfully to control and reduce obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms. These techniques had been effective in not only managing the subjective experience for OCD sufferers, but they actually triggered measurable physical and chemical changes in the brain! So I read the book, Brain Lock, by Jeffrey Schwartz, and was working on retraining my brain.

Biofeedback

Still, it wasn’t working fast enough for me. So I continued with the last of the therapies: biofeedback. However, it was not the kind of real-time brainwave-based biofeedback I’d expected, and instead was focused on relaxation techniques I was already good at. So I dropped that as well and looked at my remaining options.

Was it Something [Not] in the Water?

Over the previous 9 months I had been drinking super-filtered water. I knew that some friends of ours who use the same filtration system added healthy minerals back into their water after filtration. The anxiety had been building during that same timeframe. So I wondered if my anxiety and crazybrain might be partly the result of my being deficient in critical trace minerals. The first one that came to mind was lithium.

Lithium, an Essential Trace Mineral

I happened to have some 5 mg lithium orotate pills on hand, and decided to try it. The typical dose is 10-20 mg a day, 1 to 2 pills in the morning and 1-2 at night. But I’m sensitive to most substances, so I took 1/4th pill Friday morning, then another 1/4th Friday night. Since I didn’t have any negative reactions, I took 1/2 pill Saturday morning. And by Saturday afternoon, I was feeling dramatically calmer.

Lithium Orotate to the Rescue!

After less than 36 hours on a teeny dose of lithium orotate, I finally felt like that cruise ship! It was like a miracle for me.

I have now been taking 1/2 pill (2.5 mg) twice a day for nearly two weeks and I feel great! I still worry appropriately about things like financial challenges and threats to my family’s wellbeing. But I no longer wake up every morning feeling scared. I no longer have a running circular dialogue in my head about what’s wrong with everything I encounter. I am no longer exaggerating threats, or imagining things to be upset or worried about.

And I am no longer haunted by stuck music. I occasionally notice a song memory playing in my head, but it is not bothersome or intrusive.

What You Need to Know About Lithium Orotate

So here’s what you need to know about natural lithium. But first, the disclaimer…

The information in this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only! No substance is completely safe for everyone. So please consult with a qualified healthcare professional before trying anything new.

Lithium orotate is found in most of the world’s ground  water, along with potassium, calcium, magnesium and various other trace minerals.  Several studies have shown that regions with the highest lithium content have the lowest violent crime and suicide rates. The following PubMed link takes you to a study of lithium in 27 Texas counties. From this page you can also access similar studies from around the world.

This is NOT Pharmaceutical Lithium

If the name lithium sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve heard that prescription lithium is used to treat patients with bi-polar (manic-depressive) disorder. However, the forms of lithium used as drugs are so poorly absorbed into the brain that patients have to take huge doses that are toxic to the rest of their bodies, just to get enough into the brain to calm the mood swings.

Do Your Homework and Consult a Health Professional

Natural lithium orotate, on the other hand, is far more bioavailable, and can be effective even in tiny doses, with few, if any side effects for many people. Still there are precautions or caveats you and your healthcare advisers should be aware of.

The following links take you to articles about the benefits of lithium orotate. 1. Psychology Today article. 2. Global Healing Center article. 3. Lithium video by John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. But do your own research as well.

The 5 mg lithium orotate I am using comes from Life Extension Foundation, which I have come to trust over the years.  I can’t speak for any other brands, but, again, do your research, use your best judgment, and follow the advice of a healthcare expert.

As always, wishing you peace and quiet.

– Pat

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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.

Pat

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.

HormonePathways12

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.

Pat

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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,

Pat

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Something that inevitably comes up in every story about what I call auditory memory loops (AMLs) is the issue of sleep.

For some of us, it is just a matter of getting our heads quiet enough for a few minutes to let us fall asleep. For others, the crazy broken record shows up in our dreams too, hicupping through that same 15-second music clip for hours upon hours until we wake up in a tortured panic.

If my cortisol hypothesis has any merit, then the very act of losing sleep is, in fact, feeding the AMLs and creating a self-perpetuating cycle.

So we need to find ways to do 2 important things: (1) reduce stress, and (2) get sleep (and they are related).  Yes, I know: it’s easier said than done.

We have to reduce stress, but what exactly is stress?  Let’s define it as “circumstances or conditions that elevate cortisol levels.”

Remember that our bodies were engineered to pump out cortisol to give us a burst of energy so we could get away from that saber-toothed tiger chasing us. But that burst comes at a price. To release emergency energy reserves, cortisol burns tissues. And it’s not all that particular about which tissues it burns. Could be brain, heart, liver, kidneys, muscles, whatever. It’s a great thing if it helps you live to hunt and gather another day, but bad when the least little thing causes the same reaction.

It’s like burning your furniture if the weather’s freezing and the power’s out and your house is buried in 20 feet of snow. It’s the right thing to do under the circumstances, but not something you can afford to do on a regular basis. In our modern world there are too many little situations that our bodies react to as if they were life and death: an angry email or phone call, clogged plumbing, showing up in the same dress as someone else. Not quite the same caliber as being eaten by a tusked predator, but our bodies react the same way.

And if we keep the stress levels high enough for long enough, our adrenal glands will burn out and then we’ll feel tired all the time. (Adrenal burnout can be reversed by the way.)

So what raises cortisol levels?

  • Life situations that excite us, either negatively or positively. Happy things, like a wedding or new baby, can be just as “stressful,” in terms of releasing cortisol,  as facing an IRS audit or divorce.
  • Poor diet. If we eat nothing but junk food, too many carbs, not enough fruits and veggies, our bodies panic and release cortisol. If we skip meals or starve ourselves or purge to stay thin, our bodies release cortisol.
  • Too little or poor quality sleep. When we don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep, our bodies produce cortisol because sleep is supposed to recharge our batteries. Without proper sleep, we may have to run on backup fuel (cortisol). 
  • Too much exercise. When we exhaust all the normal stores of energy, cortisol cranks up to try and keep us going. Even with normal exercise, the push to get past “the wall” can tell our bodies that we have an emergency that needs an extra shot of energy. 
  • Illness, injury.  When our bodies are harmed or damaged, cortisol kicks in to provide extra healing energy. (Illness can also reduce or drain cortisol.) 
  • Disease. I’ve listed this separately because there are certain diseases/conditions that cause an overproduction of cortisol. In Cushing’s syndrome, for example, patients may have tumors either on the cortisol-producing adrenal glands themselves or on the pituitary gland in the brain that sends out messenger hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol.  

I think those are the main ones. So what can you do to reduce each kind of stress?

Excitement

  • Learn to meditate

Obviously you can’t control the negative things in your life, and don’t want to eliminate the positive stressors, but meditation may help you reduce the amount of stress your adrenal glands think they need to respond to. When you feel yourself getting wound up, stop, sit in a quiet place and let go for a few minutes.

  • Get moderate exercise

I’ve never been able to meditate, but I accomplish the same thing by walking. Not power-walking or doing errands, but just peacefully walking down a country road or park path. I find that I have to walk at least 30 minutes before the craziness of life finally starts to drain away.

  • See a hypnotherapist for relaxation techniques

You may not be able to “will” the AMLs away, and trying to will only create more stress. It’s like willing yourself not to think of a pink elephant: you focus on it even more. But a good hypnotherapist may be able to help you create a peaceful mood whenever you need it.

  • Simplify your life

If you are stressing because you have too much going on and can’t do justice to it all, then let go of some of it.

  • Make peace with the stresses you face and the things you can’t do or choose not to do

If you’re stressed about money, then consider how to reduce your financial needs. If you can’t find a fancy job in your chosen field, take a different job doing something fun, even if it pays a lot less. And if you are stressed because you can’t do everything on your plate, forgive yourself, allow yourself some freedom and pleasure, and ask those around you to help you find some peace in every day.

Sleep

Yes it’s hard to sleep with a 24-hour disco  in your head. And I know the usual advice about doing relaxing things and keeping to a routine every night isn’t the answer for this 800-pound gorilla. So how do you get to sleep, stay asleep and get restful sleep? Beats me. But here are some ideas from the rest of us:

  • Do about 30 minutes of light exercise before bed

Crazy? I thought so, till a doctor told me that getting some light exercise, like walking on a treadmill (I walk in place while watching TV), will burn off excess adrenaline (related to cortisol) that you’ve produced during the day. That way, you’re not all juiced up when you’re trying to fall asleep. Just don’t let your heart rate get over about 100.

  • Take melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime

This is the hormone your body produces while you sleep to help make repairs and balance other hormones overnight. In the past, melatonin supplements were great for about 4 hours’ sleep, but then you were awake again. Now, many manufacturers offer a 3 mg time-released product that gives you at least 6 hours. Some people take 6 mg or more, but check with your doc and work up on dosage to see how you like it. (I personally find that my melatonin sleep isn’t quite as sound as with the Zyrtec.)

  • Take over-the-counter sleep meds

But try not to take more drugs than you need. If Tylenol PM has Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Benadryl in it, then just take Benadryl (or generic diphenhydramine) by itself instead. No point ruining your liver with the Tylenol if you don’t need pain relief. Most OTC sleep meds are antihistimines like Benadryl anyway. So look at the ingredients and see if you can find a different product (allergy/sinus or sleep product) that only contains the sleep-inducing chemical /antihistimine.  

I find that Zyrtec helps me get to sleep and stay asleep the longest. But it doesn’t cause drowsiness in everyone. If it does work for you, you can find the generic cetirizine a LOT cheaper online.

  • Take a cortisol reducing herb like Relora at bedtime

For people with stress-related AMLs, Relora may just take the edge off the noise and relax you enough to fall off to sleep. (Relora may also reduce your appetite.)

  • Sleep in complete darkness

Studies have shown that our bodies can pick up even the tiniest bit of light (like the light on a power strip or TV) and that light will suppress the amount of melatonin we produce at night. For the most restorative sleep, try sleeping with a comfortable sleep mask or get the room as dark as possible.

  • Try chanting or humming just one note

When my AMLs were bothersome at bedtime, I ran a large floor fan in the bedroom to mask out little noises like the heat/AC kicking on, ice cubes dropping in the icemaker, etc. But I also discovered that I could manage the music enough to fall asleep by picking one note from the the fan’s hum and then concentrating on that note…effectively “humming” it in my mind. It’s like the chanting in certain types of meditation. If my mind had to be  sticky anyway, I could try to give it a peaceful, one note “song” to stick to.

  • Other solutions

I didn’t mention the more dramatic solutions like taking sleep-inducing prescription drugs with all their crazy side effects and dangers. I also didn’t mention hitting yourself in the head with a hammer to knock you out at night, or taking IV sedation that’s used for surgical anesthesia. They might work, but the consequences can be undesireable at best.

Diet, Health and Exercise

These are pretty obvious. Eat moderately-sized healthy meals on a regular basis. Get all the nutrients you need, either from food (ideally) or supplements. Don’t over exercise. And if you are ill or injured, give yourself extra time and babying to recuperate.

Disease

If you crave carbs, are overweight no matter what you do, and have excessive thirst, consult an endocrinologist and have him/her test your blood sugar and your cortisol levels.

BOTTOM LINE

You may be stuck with the AMLs but you don’t have to let the stress feed them and make them worse. Be good to yourself, find ways to sleep, eat properly, exercise moderately and relax every day.

And if you have any solutions that work for you, please share with the rest of us!

Happy chanting. Ommmmmmmmmmmmm…

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A lady named Dana contacted me about a month ago. Her 6-year-old son apparently suffers from the stuck music (AMLs). She does not know exactly how long he’s had this issue because he’s only recently developed the ability to express what’s going on inside his head.

Until fairly recently, he had assumed that everyone had stuck music in their heads. He has had the AMLs for some time, but is only now wanting them to go away.

For years, Dana had thought her son might have a hearing problem because he was always shouting and wanting to turn up the volume on the TV and radio. But multiple hearing tests have come up normal. As a sufferer myself, I told her that I could absolutely understand why a child sufferer might try to “turn up the volume” on the real world thinking the external noise could override or drown out the noise in his head.

Then she told me something very curious and critically important from a diagnostic standpoint: Her son is an identical twin. But his brother does NOT have the AMLs.

So I asked her if there are any obvious differences between the two boys. The key differences she noted were that the AML sufferer: (a) craves carbs, and (b) is excessively thirsty.

I knew the carb craving was an indication of insulin resistance (which could be the result of high cortisol levels).

And I knew the excessive thirst was also a symptom of something, but I needed to do some research before I said anything to Dana. It turned out that, in the TV show I recalled seeing, the patient’s thirst was the final clue to her diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome, which is a condition involving high cortisol levels.

When I told Dana (who is a nurse) what I’d discovered, she agreed that taking her boys to an endocrinologist might be a good next step. I’m hoping to hear back from her after they get the results of the boys’ labs.

If the doctor finds that the AML-suffering twin has much higher cortisol levels than the normal twin, then theoretically he can find an appropriate treatment to suppress the cortisol production. 

However, in doing some more research, I found that many of the current cortisol blocking agents are as bad as, or worse than, the problem they intend to treat. One blocks the development of all steroid hormones (which we need to survive). Another reduces cortisol by destroying parts of the adrenal glands. Not good choices, in my opinion.

In any case, I believe that if we can find a researcher willing and able to study these two boys to see what’s different about them, I think we can significantly advance the state of our knowledge about this condition.

And, ideally, we can help get one little boy back to normal. I’ll report if I hear more about this curious case.

Have a great weekend!

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My broken record (BR) or auditory memory loops (AMLs) started in my late 40s. First I noticed that I had little stuck songs more often, mainly after I played a favorite over and over. But like always they faded after a day or so.

Then one day I realized couldn’t get them out of my head. It was as if my brain was a music magnet and everything would get stuck.

Around the age of 48-49, after a year of dealing with the worst of it (couldn’t hear my own thoughts, couldn’t sleep), I went to the doctor to ask if this might be a symptom of menopause. He sarcastically said, “Either you have a thyroid problem or a brain tumor…and you don’t have a brain tumor!” But to shut me up he tested my sex hormones as well as thyroid hormones.

Turned out my thyroid hormones were normal…but the sex hormones were seriously low. So, yes, I was hormonally menopausal.

He put me on Prempro, the horse-estrogen and fake-progesterone drug that at the time was the gold standard for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This was before the big WHI study said the stuff is really bad for you. (Duh.) Curiously, this bad drug stopped the music in my head. So it was a matter of good news / bad news.

Thinking I’d discovered that it was indeed the low or imbalanced sex hormones that caused the BR/AMLs, I boldly proceeded to switch from those nasty alien hormones in Prempro to the more natural approach of using bioidentical hormones. These are hormones that are chemically identical to those nature gave us.

Well, they were good for me in most ways. But sadly, the more natural hormones didn’t stop the BR/AMLs.

Since that time, I’ve developed the cortisol hypothesis written about in previous posts. The hypothesis began when I was writing my book, What Part of Menopause Don’t You Understand?  I thought about how real/bioidentical progesterone differs from fake progesterone (Provera or MPA). The key difference is that the real/bioidentical stuff can break down into cortisol. The fake stuff can’t.

Not everybody I’ve talked to can make a connection between high stress (with high cortisol levels) and the triggering or increase of the BR/AMLs, but probably 80% can. Some seem to have first noticed the AMLs after a traumatic event or situation in their lives. For some, it seems the BR/AMLs started when they took one of those very same antidepressants that are given to try and quiet the AMLs (however, the need for those meds may have been preceeded by a traumatic or stressful situation that might have been the real cause).

But I suspect there is also another factor in addition to cortisol involved. After all, I know I faced stress many times in my life before age 50. So something else changed after 50 that made stress cause my brain to become “sticky.” Maybe there’s too much of the enzyme that converts progesterone to cortisol, or too little of the one that converts progesterone to estrogen and testosterone. Maybe there’s something new in my brain, maybe low or high neurotransmitters, or something physical like a lesion acting like a leaky faucet.  That’s what we need a researcher to figure out.

Anyway, that’s how my nightmare started.

How and when did your music magnet turn on?

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