What to Do When Depression, Stress & Anxiety Steal Your Love of Music

By | Posted November 29, 2016
In times of need, it’s important to go back to your favorite albums.
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Photo Credit: Roy Lichtenstein

The exciting and satisfying delight of discovering new music is well known among music enthusiasts—in fact, the pursuit of that feeling is arguably what makes you a music enthusiast in the first place. It may come in the form of a Spotify Discover Weekly playlist delivering you your Monday goods, a fresh single from a long-time favorite artist that you’ve been waiting for, or even an accidental autoplay on YouTube. A virtually endless supply of music you’d love is out there, just waiting for you to find it. And when you find that touching chord progression, that heartfelt lyric, that sonic connection...it feels like you’ve been rewarded by the universe.

However, the majority of songs you’ll hear in your life won’t spur that connection. Not a big deal. You’re used to it. But what about the tracks you wish you had a connection with? What about the artist you know you should be infatuated with that you’re just seemingly not in the mood to appreciate?

And what if that mood doesn’t dissipate? Without notice, you’re suddenly disinterested in your passion for uncovering new music. It can last for a few days, or a couple of weeks, or longer.

There are two potential causes for your aversion. The first is that we lose our fervor for new music as we age. The graph below from a Skynet & Ebert study uses Spotify data to illustrate how we quickly lose touch with the mainstream as we get older. Logically, it indicates that we seek out more underground music as our tastes solidify in our 20s, but it also shows that we never go back to the mainstream; the artists we love when we’re young eventually age out of popularity, yet we continue to return to them as our comfortable favorites instead of trying to be hip.

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If you’re not in your 30s or 40s, you can probably write that off as the reason you haven’t plugged in your headphones in days. But if that’s not the case, and you still feel detached from the music scene you once loved, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the other cause...

Depression.

Clinically speaking, depression is a low mood that lasts for at least two weeks, and it’s usually accompanied by anxiety, fatigue, and low self-esteem. However, you don’t have to undergo a major depressive episode or get professionally diagnosed to feel the symptoms of depression. In fact, one of the most telling signs of depression might explain why you aren’t feeling like your musically-inclined self.

The medical term is anhedonia, and it’s defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities you would normally enjoy. Sound familiar?

When A Tribe Called Quest released We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, I had to force myself to listen, only trying to fulfill my duty as a hip-hop writer. I didn’t even make it all the way through before I gave up. I knew it was music I should have enjoyed—the instrumentals were bopping, the bars were crisp, and the album was acclaimed by every critic, including us. But I just didn’t care.

When I stepped back, I saw the bigger picture: a racist, megalomaniacal cheese puff had just become the most powerful man in the world, a cascade of assignment due dates and midterm exams were flooding towards me, and I was struggling with adapting to a long-distance relationship. Every night I dreamt of dying in World War III or missing an exam, every morning I woke up lonely, and every day I felt less and less interested in the latest album leak.

Obviously, combatting anhedonia is no simple task, and if you’re battling the larger issue of depression, there are no easy answers. However, if you’re like me, and just want to take that first baby step—reclaiming your love of music—the answer is already in your iTunes library.

For a full day—for the first time in a long time—I stopped checking what’s new on Twitter, closed the SoundCloud app, and ditched my Recently Added playlist. I pulled up one of my one of my favorite songs of all time, queued up a few deeply regarded albums that I had long been neglecting for fresh fodder, and went back to the old me. Just for a day.

Before I knew it, I was singing and rapping along with the lyrics, bobbing my head to familiar beats, and researching samples (“Where is My Mind?” by The Pixies, if you’re wondering). I fell in love with music again—even if it was just for the day—and that feeling was irreplaceable.

It’s important to note that my simple solution of finding comfort in your favorite jams is not at all prescriptive, nor long-term, and if you need help restoring your mental health, you shouldn’t hesitate to get it. Hopefully, however, this strategy can help you feel slightly better for just one hour or one day, and with any luck, you’ll remember why you fell in love with music in the first place.

During our trying times, we should be relying on the sensual healing power of music more, not pushing it away. Hitting repeat on your most personally significant album is a great place to start.

Unfortunately, Trump is still president-elect, I now have finals looming, and my relationship is as long-distance as ever. The good news, however, is that I finally listened to We got it from Here…, and I haven’t stopped bumping it since.

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