Category: Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders


Stuck in My Head: Musical Obsessions and Psychological Flexibility

Sunday, November 19
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom C & D, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) | Rumination | Experiential Avoidance
Presentation Type: Symposium

Earworms, also known as musical obsessions or intrusive musical imagery (IMI), refer to catchy tunes that run repeatedly through a person’s mind, as if stuck in “playback mode.” This phenomenon is common and becomes problematic when associated with elevated distress and interference. Such intrusions have not been researched extensively, although clinicians have related earworms to anxiety and conceptualized the phenomenon as an OCD-like intrusion [e.g., listed as a type of miscellaneous obsession in the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) symptom checklist]. Previous surveys of community samples have shown that musical obsessions are commonly comorbid with other types of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and a series of cases studies (in press) acknowledged that such musical obsessions appear to respond to empirically supported OCD treatments.

The current study expands upon past research by examining earworms in the context of related anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms; in particular, the willingness to experience unwanted thoughts. 240 undergraduate students completed an online survey regarding musical obsessions and related constructs (e.g., psychological flexibility and distress). Pearson correlations revealed that increased distress and interference due to earworms correlated with decreased psychological flexibility (p

Lillian Reuman

Graduate Student
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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Stuck in My Head: Musical Obsessions and Psychological Flexibility

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