Bipolar Disorder: What Are Racing Thoughts?

Nov 10, 2014

Learn what the racing thoughts of bipolar disorder are. #raisingbipolar

Last week, I explained why I don't limit my daughter's Minecraft time. In that post, I mentioned a little about racing thoughts and now I want to explain what racing thoughts are. 

What Are Racing Thoughts?

Although I had tried many times to understand racing thoughts, it was only a year and a half ago that I finally figured it out. Alexis helped me to understand it a little better.

From the above post

"Racing thoughts are a lot of snippets of music, conversations and negative thoughts looping, one over the other, for hours on end. These racing thoughts aren't persistent in that they are not 'playing' 24/7, but when they are, the person feels as though they're going mad."

They are thoughts that won't be quiet. They can be in the background of other thoughts or completely take over a person's conscious thought. They can include music, snippets of conversation from movies, television or books. 

They can be one's own voice (or someone else's) repeating a phrase or sentence again and again. They can even be rhythms of pressure with no "sound" at all. 

I found a video that attempts to share what racing thoughts are.
I spent an hour searching YouTube for something that could possibly convey what the person with racing thoughts experiences. This video was the only one that seemed likely.

I called my son in the room to have him confirm or deny how realistic this is. (I am, after all, not bipolar.) When the audio began playing, he froze and, in a low voice, said, "Oh my God." 

It seemed to disturb his very spirit. 

I asked if it was realistic. He said, "Yeah. It could be better, but yeah." I asked how it could be better. He told me there are more sound bytes, as it were. Four, five, six at a time, all playing over one another, and one after another, for hours and hours on end.

So listen to this 38-second video and imagine it with more noise. More snippets of conversations. More negative thoughts.

This is what my children experience. It's why they can't sleep many times. It's why they need distractions.

Do you have something to add? If you have racing thoughts, was this an accurate explanation?

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  1. It sounds awful. I feel bad for those who experience it.

    1. I'm sure it's not easy at all. I can't imagine.

  2. Anonymous11/10/2014

    I have learned a lot from your blog. I had never heard of racing thoughts.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I'm headed over to check out your blog, too.

  3. Very accurate and like your son said "could be better", but yeah!

    1. I can't even imagine, Joede. Thanks for sharing your input. Sometimes I wish I could interview people about so many topics so that I could understand my kids even better. As it is, I observe and listen. Sometimes I question the grown kids (as with my son for this post).

  4. Anonymous11/11/2014

    My daughter's Dr. always asks if she has racing thoughts... she always says no. I wonder if she has them but doesn't know what that means. To me, I would describe what is shown on the videa as jumbled or random intrusive thoughts and sounds rather than racing thoughts. Do all people with Bipolar have "racing" thoughts?

    1. I'm not bipolar and I'm certainly no doctor, but from what I've seen from 4 kids, their fathers (both bipolar), their grandfather and several bipolar friends - yes. Intrusive thoughts are different. Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that just barge in, unwanted. Perhaps a person with intrusive thoughts keep having a thought to harm someone, for instance. That's VERY different.

      These are regular thoughts that get stuck like a broken record. For instance, suppose my son is thinking about painting. Perhaps his thought is "I want to make a painting, but I'm out of red paint. I also need a bigger canvas." Maybe he doesn't get the chance to complete that thought. Perhaps it turns out more like this...

      "I want to make a painting, but I'm out of red paint...out of red paint...out of red paint...out of red paint...out of red paint...out of red paint...out of red paint..."and he's hearing that along with or overlapped with a snippet of a song he heard earlier. And he's hearing those with a snippet of something I said earlier such as "we're having chicken for dinner..we're having chicken for dinner..we're having chicken for dinner..we're having chicken for dinner..we're having chicken for dinner.." and that he's hearing along with his own voice saying "you're a loser.. you're a're a loser... "

      All these are REAL things he's heard or said. Not intrusive thoughts that he never experienced.

  5. Oh my goodness! I'm so glad you are taking the time to figure out what are your kids specific needs. Bipolar is a something many people don't understand. However, I think the most disturbing part of it all, is I bet many people who have these wayward thoughts would believe that those are manifested by themselves. Without understanding that the brain is just tossing out these random thoughts that if fed into - start to mean something to the person - or drive them to react a certain way. Having to fight off background noise for a kid I bet is exhausting. Does meds help?

    1. I'm so sorry I didn't see this earlier. Apparently my notifications weren't working well in November!

      I have her on a natural treatment and it DOES seem to be helping. I recently realized just how dominating negative thoughts are for her. I'll soon be writing about that.


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