This page has been reviewed and edited Eualalee Thompson, MSc, PGDip, a trained and practicing psychotherapist and counselor, in private practice since 2005. She commonly assists her clients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress (PTSD), and surviving sexual abuse.
Music may have an affect on depression and bipolar disorder. It can be used in a positive way,
contributing to an improved mood and positive outlook.
On the other hand, excessively
listening to music of many genres, as well as listening to negative music,
can increase tension, nervousness, and contribute to depression. While most
studies link music habits to disorders such as depression and anxiety, bipolar
disorder may also be affected by music habits.
What is Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression or manic- depressive disorder, is a
mental disorder that presents itself through alternating periods of elation (or mania)
and depression, or highs and lows. These shifts in mood and energy level can severely
impact the affected individual's important areas of functioning, such as relationships,
school, employment, and other social interactions.
The National Institute of Mental Health indicates a 12-month prevalence of 2.6 per cent
of U.S. adults with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. However, it is not unusual for the
symptoms of bipolar disorder to first appear in the late teens or early adulthood,
with 50 per cent of cases starting before age 25 (Kessler, et al, 2005).
The two main forms of bipolar disorder
are Bipolar Disorder I
and Bipolar Disorder II; Bipolar Disorder II is the less-severe form of the disorder.
Music Can Be Positively Used as Therapy or in Self-Help
Music can be a deeply emotional experience. Daniel Västfjäll, researcher at
the Department of Psychology, Göteborg University, Sweden notes that “Music can
arouse deep emotions in the listener”. The National Institute of Mental Health
notes that many musicians, and other creative artists have suffered from the “mood
swings” associated with bipolar disorder (NIMH. 2002). There may be higher
incidence of mania and depression among musicians, and some studies link those
predisposed with bipolar disorder to a higher level of creativity (Jamison. K.R. 2014).
When one connects with a piece of music, the emotional experience resembles a flow
of electricity moving from the singer, to the CD or radio, and then to the individual.
With this in mind,music therapy uses the various types of music to manage
and positively influence people's emotional, physical and cognitive needs.
It is a "planned, goal-directed process" (Peters. 2000).. and Some Numerousmany
researchers have been studying music therapy as a treatment approach for mental
illness, including its positive use in treating bipolar disorder and substance
abuse, in both young people and in adults (Bednarz & Nikkel, 1992).
Music can positively affect people's mental health . It can bring aboutby eliciting
a calm and peaceful feelings, and providinge a healthy diversion from the harshness
of life. Bednarz & Nikkel (1992) studied the effect of music therapy on mental illness
looking at five interventions – music discussion, music instruction, group participatory
music, music listening, and expressive music interventions. The researchers found
improvement in the quality of life among the clients exposed to music therapy
Researchers have also found that music can affect mood. Choi, Soo Lee & Lim (2008),
for example, in a small study of 26 patients with mental illness, including mood disorders,
non-randomly assigned patients to a music intervention group or a routine care group.
They and found that after 15 weekly sessions, those in the music intervention group showed
signs of significant improvement in depression, anxiety, and relationships when compared
to the control group.
Music therapist Jacqueline Schmidt Peters, MMT, BC (2000) makes reference
to the usefulness of integrating music of varying types in the therapeutic process,
and this intervention can be effective with patients with bipolar disorder. The process
is simple and goes as follows:after initial assessment and evaluation of a patient,
the psychotherapist could works with a music therapist to design an intervention with a
specific music and rhythmic experience to affect the patient's mood.
Intense Music and its Affect on Emotions
Different types or genres of music can affect people, especially children
and teens, in different ways. Listening to music that is alternatively happy
and angry, or otherwise emotionally charged can affect their emotions and thus
contribute to highs and lows in an adolescent's mood. This seems to be the case
for youth who suffer with depression, bipolar disorder, or ADHD.
Much of today's popular music is intense, passionate, and highly-charged. Its
energy level is high, and when combined with imagery from music videos, can be
an intense experience, and for some, overwhelming for the senses, especially
when indulged in on a daily basis.
Highly-charged and sexual music affects children and youth and their mental/emotional well-being. Photo: Pussycat Dolls in concert
The type of music one listens to does have a bearing on mood. In one study,
for example, listening to classical music was equated with a “feeling of ease”,
whereas listening to heavy metal contributed to “increased feelings of tension
and nervousness”. (Rea, C., MacDonald, P., Carnes, G. 2010). Emotional response
is not limited to classical and heavy metal, but this simply demonstrating
contrasting emotional responses from two deeply diverse forms of music.
It is not unusual for today’s children and adolescents to spend several hours
each day on their iPods or cell phones listening to music, and during other
times of the day , watching music videos on the Internet and television music videos.
Research indicate that . This multiple sources of over-stimulation through music
stimulation, perhaps may have an also affect children and teen’s their mood,
based on information coming from research studies (Primack, B.A., MD, EdM, MS, et al.).
Social Isolation Affects Mood and May Affect Mood Disorders
Another aspect of the retreat into a private musical world is that of the
emotional and social isolation that it can offers: many find it an escape from
unpleasant family or other situations in the fantasy of captivating music.
“Social isolation” is implicated in one study as a plausible explanation linking
increased time on social networking and a tendency towards mood disorders. The
2013 study by Michigan State University researchers indicates that longer hours
on Facebook correlates with negative shifts in mood and a lower sense of well-being.
The authors conclude that human contact through non-virtual relationships improves
mental health, while social isolation often negatively affects various facets of mental
health (Kross, E., et al.)
The same idea can be implied to social isolation caused by excessive music
listening habits—the quantity of time spent listening to music in isolation may
have a bearing on mood disorders for those who are predisposed to such disorders.
Long hours on the music headset by iPod, or more commonly by cellphone and YouTube, can affect the mental health of children and teens.
Music is not only about the sound and rhythm,lyrical content is also important
when considering of music's impact on children and adolescents; Swedish music
researcher Daniel Västfjäll notes “the importance of considering the content of
lyrics and its effect on mood.” This can especially be the case for those who
do not have strong or stable family ties and emotional attachments (Västfjäll, D. 2002).
The sexual messages of much of today's music for children and teenagersyouth have
an effect on their outlook, as does the intensity of the music on their mood.
Is it possible that this overstimulation through music exposure can affect youths’
ability to be able to create or be imaginative without some external stimulation?
Can music and lyrical content affect children's or teens' coping skills and make
them more vulnerable to mental-health crises? These are interesting questions to
consider in the context of bipolar disorder and mental health as a whole.
It appears that as in most endeavors, moderation is needed in music, and parents
and caregivers need to provide a variety of well-chosen wholesome music for children
and young people who are musically inclined.
Music, Psychology, Bipolar Disorder: Rage, Anger and Desperation
Swedish research Daniel Västfjäll notes that depressed and anxious moods can be
created through music induction; that is, listening to selected types of music
can result in feelings of depression and anxiety.
Photo: Linkin Park in concert - August 1, 2008 - by Vitor Suarez
In many forms of music popular with youth today there can be a sense of "rage"
and "desperation" especially in genres such as alternative (rock) music, heavy
metal, grunge and hard core.
Constant exposure to raw or aggressive music may present the mind with little
time to rest, placing it in a constant state of overstimulation. The dopamine
levels in the brain peak and lead to is overstimulation, contributing to highs
in mood, with corresponding lows in the absence of this stimulation. Aggressive
music can thus be a contributing factor in the molding of a child’s or teen’s
worldview and shaping of their personality (Robertson, J. 1998. p. 11,13,19,20,23).
Photo: Link in Park in concert - August 1, 2008 - by Vítor Suárez
When this is combined with an unstable family life or other media influences
such as violence or pornography, the combined effects can have a powerful
influence on destabilizing the mood of adolescents, children and adults.
While this may not always be the case, the choices and intensity of the music
people listen to could affect their mood and be one of many contributing
factors towards mood disorder,including depression for some
(supported by clinical studies), and to bipolar disorder for others.
Conclusion on Music and Bipolar Disorder and Music
If it is agreed that music has a tremendous affect on mood, one can conclude
then, that by limiting music exposure and intensity, changes in emotional impact,
including a lower anger level and calmer disposition, can be achieved. Making healthy
choices in the type of music one listens to is another avenue through which more
stability can be achieved for those predisposed to bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders.
Developmental psychologist Douglas Gentile states that music can affect the mood
of children and teens, and implies that that positive or negative mood of the music
is transmittable; “angry-sounding music” can affect mood, and ideas and values can
also be imparted through the music from the musician to the listener.
Certain forms of rock and roll, for example, may be considered to be an “angry”
genre of music, with some rock music, from the 60’s through today, is noted asas
a protest against perceived injustices; youths imbibe these ideals along with the
anger related to it. Some rock music takes that anger and desperation to extreme
levels, and this might have an even greater emotional impact on teenagers.
Associate professor of history at Youngstown State University David Simonelli
refers to punk rock, for example, as a “revitalizing element that perfectly
captured youth anger” (Simonelli, D. 2013. p. xix). The minds of teenagers are
still developing, adjusting both physically and mentally to new circumstances in
life, and, in their transition from childhood to adulthood.
Based on existing studies, music therapy can be one effective, non-invasive
way to improve mental health, and positive changes in music habits may positively
affect symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder.
In Music and Mind in Everyday Life, by music professors and lecturers at Oxford
University and University of Sheffield, Clarke, Dibben, and Pitts state that music
is “a means for people to alter their mood”, and as a means to achieve a “desired
emotional state” (p. 90). Some choose music that allows them to “ruminate” more
deeply in a negative emotion, while others choose music that helps them achieve
a more positive emotional state, according to the authors.
Discerning choices in quantity and type of music one listens to can be one factor
in achieving greater mood stability, and in self-regulation for bipolar
disorder. Parents should be aware how music may affect their children’s mood,
and both education and regulate their child or teen’s music habits. This principle can be
also applied towards policies in public schools, and in educating youth in habits
contributing towards improved mental health.
References for Bipolar Disorder and Music
Bednarz, L. F. & Nikkel, B. (1992). The role of music therapy in the treatment of
young adults diagnosed with mental illness and substance abuse.
Music Therapy Perspectives
. , 10(1), 21-26. Doi: 10.1093/mtp/10/1/21
Bipolar Disorder in Adults. National Institute of Mental Health
Retrieved March 17, 2015. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in-adults/index.shtml?rf
Choi, A., Soo Lee, M., & Lim, H. (2008). Effects of group music
intervention on depression, anxiety, and relationships in psychiatric patients:
A pilot study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
14(5), 567-570. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0006
Clark, E., Dibbon, N., Pitts, S., (2009). Music and Mind in Everyday Life. Oxford University Press.
Facts on Bipolar Disorder. (2004, October 25). National Institute on Mental
Gentile, D. “Is listening to negative lyrics or “angry” music really
harmful to my child?” Baby Center Expert Advice
. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
Jamison, K. R. (2014, August 15). Bipolar disorder and the creative mind. CNN.
Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., Walters,
E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV
disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives
of General Psychiatry.
, 62(6), 593-602.
Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, e., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N.
Shablack, H., Jonides, J., Ybarra O. (2013, August 14). Facebook Use
Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. PLOS ONE.
Peters, J.S. (2000). Music therapy: An introduction. Charles C.
Thomas Publishers, Ltd.
: Springfield, IL.
Primack, B.A., MD, EdM, MS; Silk, J.S., PhD; DeLozier, C. BS; Shadel,
W. G., PhD; Dillman-Carpentier, F. R., PhD; Dahl, R. E., MD; Switzer,
G. E., PhD. (2011, April 4). Using Ecological Momentary Assessment to
Determine Media Use by Individuals With and Without Major Depressive Disorder.
JAMA Pediatrics. 2011;165(4):360-365. http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=384518
Rea, C., MacDonald, P., Carnes, G. Listening to classical, pop, and metal
music: An investigation of mood. Emporia State Research Studies.
Vol. 46, no. 1, p. 1-3 (2010).
Robertson, J. (1998). Natural Prozac: Learning to Release Your Body's
Own Anti-Depressants. NY: HarperOne.
Simonelli, D. (2013). Working Class Heroes: Rock Music and British Society
in the 1960s and 1970s. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Västfjäll, D. (2002, January 1). Emotion Induction Through Music: A Review
of the Musical Mood Induction Procedure. Academia.edu
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