Monday, April 30, 2012

Music and Mental Illness

Hey there,
I know, it's been ages. I've been busy! Homework and stuff.
Anyway, for our homework, we had to do a short report on anything music related, and I thought you guys might be interested to read it. Here it is! :)

Music And Mental Illness
It's a well known fact that many musicians suffer from various mental disorders, and many have taken their life because of it. But It's also been said that having a mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder has helped fuel their  creativity. Many artists claim that in some ways their illness has been there source of inspiration, and many people have said that music, be  it writing, playing or listening to, is the only thing that's kept them going. Music is also an effective and reliable treatment for mental disorders and is widely used as a method of therapy.
Mentally Ill Musicians
These days, mental illness is not uncommon,  in fact, it's been said that all or most people will display some signs of underlying mental illness, even if it's not bad enough to be diagnosed as a mental illness, we all have a little bit of crazy deep down inside us. So it would seem reasonable to think that many musicians do indeed have some sort of disorder.
While some may draw from their disorder, for others, it has meant the end.  It's not just recently that musicians have struggled with mental disorders, in the 1800's a composer by the name of Robert Schuman struggled with bipolar disorder, tried to throw himself of a bridge, and later died in a mental asylum, from syphilis. Another well known musician who ultimately met their end after battling mental illness, is Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana. Kurt took his life on the 5th of April 1994, he died from a bullet to the head after he had been battling depression and drug addiction.

Effects of Music On The Mind

Music has a greater affect on the mind than you may think. It's almost like a drug, in the way that it affects you brain. When you listen to one of your favourite bands or artists, you brain releases the same chemical it releases when you eat chocolate, and yes, orgasm. This chemical is called dopamine. Dopamine plays a huge part in the part of the brain that rewards achievements. It also has many other functions in the brain, including behaviour and cognition, voluntary movement, motivation, punishment and reward, inhibition of prolactin production (involved sexual gratification), sleep, mood, attention, working memory, and learning. Highly addictive drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine also tap directly into the flow of dopamine through the brain, this is what makes these drugs (and music) so addictive, and gives them the effect of a stimulant. Illnesses such as Schizophrenia have elevated levels of dopamine activity in the mesolimbic pathway (one of the dopaminergic pathways in the brain) and decreased levels of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex.  ADHD is also believed to be associated with decreased dopamine activity.  

Music As Therapy

Music therapy helps in many ways, such as giving the person something they can relate to, a safe way to vent, a creative outlet, and opportunities to socialize in music group and build confidence. Also, as mentioned before, increases dopamine levels, improving ones mood and making them feel fulfilled and rewarded. Music also encourages freedom of expression and creativity. Writing lyrics is one exercise they do in music therapy. This is a way for the person to let out what they're feeling and turn it into something creative that they can be proud of. Turning negative experiences into something you can be proud of, and then, overcome.

To Conclude...
Music is a very important part of people's lives, whether they're creating it or enjoying it. It's been said that in a way, musicians with mental disorders are self medicating, expressing themselves and getting that feeling of fulfilment and success. But at the same time, the disorder is what makes the music, what inspires them. So they write music because they are stressed, upset, etc, and doing that makes them feel good. Music has a huge effect on the mind and can really make a difference in someone's life.
Sometimes, singing that one sad song can make everything so much better.

Thanks for reading guys, let me know what you think

Much loves, from Shannon :P


  1. Well done! And makes me wish I was more musical!

  2. You are completely right Shannon. The best music has come from tortured minds. To the average ear it can just sound like an emo trip, but if that song strikes a cord with even the smallest thing in your life at the exact moment, it's like they are speaking from your heart, the words you couldn't find to express how you feel.

    Brilliant blog post. Xx