Bipolar, music, and chipmunks.
June 7, 2010 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience/knowledge of musical auditory hallucinations (possibly) associated with Bipolar Disorder and/or mood stabilizers? Weird experience follows.

I had a strange experience, and I'm curious to know if anyone else has experienced anything similar, or has any relevant knowledge or theories (or, even better, links) about the following.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (Type II) about 18 months ago, after about 10 years of unsuccessful attempts to deal with the issues. Since then I've been taking Lamotrigine (200mg/day) and Escitalopram (100mg/day) with very good results. Occasionally I forget to take it, which has, depending on for how long I forget, consequences ranging from mild to somewhat dire.

A couple of days ago, I forgot to take my medication. About 10 hours after my missed dose, while driving on a road trip and happily singing along to some tunes, I started noticing that my music was going chipmunk - higher pitch, faster tempo. The only reason I didn't conclude that my tape player was malfunctioning and overspeeding is that I didn't have one - I was listening to my iPod.

My travelling companion swears the music was normal. I experimented with about 5 different songs to try and see whether I had just got too into the fast-drivin' part of my playlist, but I'm quite convinced that even on songs which should be lower and slower, I was getting 35-45% chipmunk for my trouble.

I was disturbed at this point, and turned the music off. Once I had accepted that it was probably my subjective experience which was off, and that, against all indications, reality probably hadn't speeded up by about one-third, I remembered I hadn't taken my medication, and did so.

I put the music on about an hour later (and reset the iPod just for good measure) and all was normal.

I didn't notice any other of the indicators I sometimes have when I've forgotten to take medication.

Anyone ever experience / witness / hear of anything similar? How did you / they / your close friend / etc cope? Did it ever happen again?

Is it actually possible for iPods to spontaneously decide to play faster and sound like a speeded-up tape? (Hey, maybe it ISN'T me!)

YANMD, and IAN dumb enough to accept psychiatric advice proffered by ppl on the interwebz, but I'm now far more interested than disturbed.

If it helps ease your worried mind, I faithfully promise that I will seek professional help / explain it all to my doctor / check myself into the local funny farm / etc when I get home, so thank you for not advising me to "OMG see ur shrink NOW!!1!"

Thoughtful contributions (which may or may not include urgings as to professional consultation) are welcome and encouraged.

posted by MadMage to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have never heard of this, related to BPD and meds. I have heard, however, of this sort of hallucination; Oliver Sacks' excellent Musicophilia has a whole section on musical/auditory hallucinations. They run the gamut of "interesting, even pleasurable to the person having them" to "taking over the patient's life in a terrible way". I highly recommend it if you're interested in this sort of thing.

This is to say: It's not an unheard-of phenomenon, psych meds do all sorts of stuff to the brain, so this doesn't seem too bizarre to me, and it probably (IANAD) isn't a sign of something more serious, at least nothing requiring immediate attention. But check with your prescribing doctor.

As for iPods-- there are functions to speed up audiobooks and podcasts, but I think it just compresses the timeline; it doesn't go into "chipmunk" mode.
posted by supercres at 4:44 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds to me like it would qualify as an extremely low-level auditory hallucination (possibly psychotic in origin). Psychotic symptoms are pretty common with bipolar II disorder; my bipolar-II boyfriend had those sorts of hallucinations when he ran out of his meds once.
posted by mykescipark at 5:16 PM on June 7, 2010

Tegretol can change pitches, but I think your case is something different.
posted by griphus at 9:06 PM on June 7, 2010

I tend toward auditory phenomena as well, but your iPod might just suck too. Never miss a lamotrigine dose; the f#$& can really bite back.
posted by mcbeth at 10:05 PM on June 7, 2010

You said you missed your dose that day, and it sounds like maybe your experience was a symptom of withdrawal. I had similar problems when I was taking meds for bi polar disorder.
posted by Half-a-Dozen Paper Cranes at 10:21 PM on June 7, 2010

I'm on Lamotrigine (but not the other one). Withdrawal is brutal. I get dizzy and my feet feel like they're made of lead. I can't speak to the auditory hallucinations specifically since I'm hearing impaired already and that throws a wrench in the works.

If this only ever happens when you've missed/delayed a dose, I would not worry about it. Just set a timer or whatever you need to do to be able to take it at the same time every day.
posted by desjardins at 7:24 AM on June 8, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks folks, this is exactly the kind of input I was looking for.

Supercres, I will definitely check out Musicophilia. As I said, I'm not really worried, more intrigued.

McBeth, Paper Cranes and Desjardins, thank you for the comparative info - I also have some unpleasant withdrawal effects, it's just that I don't often immediately notice them - they kind of creep up on me and my partner starts making concerned noises. This was in a class of "there's something wrong", but before being able to tie it to the meds.

Thank you all - much appreciated.
posted by MadMage at 3:45 PM on June 9, 2010

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