Psychologists don’t see music addiction as a mental health issue, it’s the opposite, actually. Listening to music reduces stress, relieves pain, improves quality of sleep and improves mood (when you have to do monotonous tasks).
But when listening to music go wrong? Let’s get into it then.
The effect of music on the brain is good which makes you feel more productive than you actually are. But that is just a feeling, right?
In short, feeling good from music while performing a task does not translate into actually being productive. It just makes you feel less presured and under tension.
Daniel Levitin, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “This is Your Brain on Music” says that intellectual faculties (writing, thinking, reading) suffer when they are done while listening to music.
Your attention capacity is also cut down when music is combined with activities that need your attention. In this way, you are left with few cognitive resources to apply to a task. Updating your playlists, searching and selecting new music and trying to keep up with new music eats away at your focus.
He suggests listening to music separately from work or any intellectual activity, 10 to 20 minutes in advance.
Music impairs memory, in a study done in 2010 the group that performed better on a memory task was the participants who worked in silence compared to those who had music in the background.
Music works like performance enhancing drugs, but instead of performance it is an emotion enhancing ‘drug’.
If you use music to brighten your mood when you’re feeling down, you are essentially teaching your brain to correct negative feelings with the dopamine effects of music. This develops a dependency on music rather than you taking action to find solutions to emotional or mental stress.
Everyone needs a music pick-me-up sometimes but relying on music to manage stress and distress is not helpful to yourself in the long run. Music, unless recommended by an expert, is not therapy or a cure to emotional problems.
It’s effects are not standardised either, for example, sad music might help you through a break up or prolong the grief.
In “Why is Music so Addictive? We Have Our Ancestors to Blame” by The Oxford Student an excerpt reads:
“When we hear a song that we like, our bodies react by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine which engenders feelings of enjoyment. This chemical is also released when we drink a glass of water because we’re thirsty, or after we’ve had sex.
In these situations, the body is rewarding actions that increase its chances of survival and reproduction so that our conscious selves will be more likely to repeat the action. So we are addicted to music, at least in the same sense that we are addicted to food, water and sex,”
Enhancing other addictions
A survey conducted in 2015 revealed that 42% of 144 people who were receiving treatment for drug use disorder associated a certain type of music with a great urge to use drugs.
While recreational drugs are not bad for having a good time at a festival, the theory out there is that since it is a dopamine-inducing experience, coupling it with problematic dopamine-inducing activities could potentially trigger use.
So here’s how to cut down on music
• Instead of reaching for your Spotify, try calling up a friend or loved one for a chat.
• Listen to other media, podcasts, audio books, radio talk shows.
• Try listening to music without lyrics
• Take up journaling when you feel like expressing yourself rather than living vicariously through lyrics.
• Lower the volume on your gadgets, over time it impairs your hearing and irritates your neighbours.
• Match the music to situations: slow music can promote relaxation, classical music can boost focus, and upbeat music when you need a rush like at the gym.
Credit: Article adapted from Pulse Ng