Censoring Media for Self Preservation

Before the word bipolar reared its head in our household when I was growing up, I can remember my mom using the word “hypersensitive” in reference to me.

I can understand completely how that conclusion came about, because what else do you call someone who is extra sensitive emotionally, extra sensitive to noise, sugar, environment, basically the gamut of human experience? I’ve always been sensitive to things that most people could care less about, and though that makes much more sense to me now there was a long time where I didn’t quite understand what that meant.

These days, the simple way to explain this is using the word triggers.

Noise is a huge trigger for me, I have a very hard time being in situations where there is a lot of noise. I am quickly overwhelmed by places like the mall, not because of the people… just because of the amount of noise. I know that these situations are likely to result in a mood shift, and I tend to quickly find myself feeling exhausted, extremely irritable, and ready to climb into the nearest quiet hole I can find.

I figured that one out pretty early on, but something it took me a while to recognize is how much media content effects me.

For example, if I listen to a sad or angry song, I will become sad or angry.

If I watch a depressing movie, I will likely walk away feeling depressed.

If I read an article about a topic that disturbs me, I will probably be disturbed and frustrated for the rest of the day.

So lets see, I have a disorder that causes my mood to shift rapidly on its own (sometimes for no apparent reason), is it wise for me to be actively choosing to surround myself with things that will have a negative effect on me?


This is where things get tricky. I don’t believe in general censorship, I think information belongs to everyone. That said, it has become increasingly difficult for me to do things like watch the news, especially when there are videos of child abuse taking place or people (Saddam Hussein, for example) being killed right in front of me. I can handle hearing a disturbing topic, but I absolutely cannot handle such graphic, disturbing images (especially of real life situations).

For the most part, I try to avoid movies with disturbing images as well… I’ll watch the occasional horror movie every once in a while, but I constantly remind myself that I am watching a movie and the content is fiction. Plus, horror movies are often so ridiculous that they couldn’t pass for seeming real anyway, so I haven’t had much trouble. Usually it is movies in the “drama” category that really get me in trouble, because that’s when things like abuse, sexual assault, or suicide pop up without any sort of warning.

Honestly I hate the idea of censoring what I allow myself to see or hear or read, but there are very real and unpleasant consequences if I do not. I don’t enjoy feeling a deep, unrelenting agony… especially when it isn’t about something that happened in my own life!

Recently I’ve been listening to podcasts as an alternative to music (or books on tape, love it), and it has been great to learn little facts or hear stories and for the most part I have not had trouble with them effecting my moods (with the exception of listening to The Fellowship of the Ring and having a bit of an intense OCD relapse from the Tom Bombadil portion for some odd reason).

You know what else never makes me feel terrible? Justin Timberlake. Now now, don’t scoff, if you knew me you’d know that to be a ridiculous thing to say but that is the very reason I am able to listen to him. Seriously, I crack up like crazy anytime I hear Justin Timberlake, and he is one of the few artists that puts me in a better mood than when I started (simply because I’ve been laughing so hard over the course of the song).

Well, in conclusion, I’ve reached a point where I feel comfortable with what media I expose myself to for the most part, this sort of censorship has become an important reality for me.

Do you ever find yourself censoring what you read/watch/or listen to, and is it worth the trouble?

14 responses to “Censoring Media for Self Preservation

  1. I find myself censoring what I let into my mind more and more as I get older. I agree with you about horror movies, most seem to amuse me more than anything else. I almost always avoid anything that is nominated for an Oscar an more…. I think of a lot of media as being forms of entertainment, if its failing that, and causing me to be in a foul mood, then what’s the point? I want to feel inspired, light, tickled, and entertained. The same for books- anymore I find myself setting down any dramas/mystery books that I start and reading a stupid romance or YA novel just to relieve my mind. I talk to a lot of people in a day, and lately I’ve had a really hard time with people who give statements of what they believe to be fact and it is just depressing bs.”This is the way things are” is a matter of acceptance, and I chose to believe that many things are possible. If that means censoring what goes into my mind to maintain optimistic, than I say its worth it.

    • I agree with you completely on Oscar nominees, that usually gives things a black mark in my book (unless I am particularly attached to the specific director)!

  2. I got rid of cable TV……..
    Best decision of my life!

  3. I don’t feel the need to self censor. Often it goes the exact opposite direction, where I seek out media that will produce a strong emotional reaction. In my case it’s like a drug where I can leap out of the haze of not-quite-anything and into something where I feel. It’s also cathartic even if it leaves me a little depressed afterwards. But that might also because I’ve been in the nowhere mood too much with all my sedation and everything beats sedation.

    • I understand what you mean, there was a time when I basically sought out anything that might spark an emotional reaction because I was so frustrated with how numb I felt. Unfortunately when media ultimately failed to produce results I switched to the more drastic technique of self harm… so I don’t allow myself to go near that place again.

  4. In reference to your mood shifts because of overstimulation, do you ever feel that click? I know this is slightly different, but I experience severe anxiety in crowds and small spaces. Last night, I was at the grocery store, one that I used to work at for a really long time, and I literally felt something click in my brain. Suddenly, I was physically overwhelmed and panicked, like feeling faint without actually having any of the physical symptoms that would lead to fainting. I had to tell myself, “This place is not foreign. You used to work here. You used to practically live here. It’s a safe place.” And then, I remembered all of the other physical clicks I’ve had.

    I do have to censor some things. I often forget that I have a sensory dysfunction with processing excessive noise. Certain noises are okay. Like, a crowded cafeteria. The sound of children is filtered. But I find that I cannot watch films that involve graphic depictions of gruesome things, especially if it involves children. I will cry and often find myself in a slump. I have to ban certain places because I know a crowd will be present. It sets something off. Either I get the “deer in the headlights” effect, or I become enraged and have found myself making nasty commentary toward strangers who are being inconsiderate idiots. (They usually deserve it, but that’s not the point).

    I have to sensor music that evokes a bad memory. Anything by Disturbed and Drowning Pool is up on the chopping block. I avoid music in that genre in general, because I never know what is going to set it off. Popular music between 2004 and 2006. Anything that was ever played at the grocery store. Things like that.

    But, it doesn’t have an effect on my mood, per se. It doesn’t make me depressed; it makes me anxious. I remember things that happened in certain situations that I buried. Oh, and my Antonia Banderas perfume is off-limits. I really don’t want to think about that one.

    The only thing that would really set me off is if I were depressed and happened to hear a “go-to” depressive song. Things like, “Hurt” by NIN, “I Hate Everything About You” by Three Days Grace, and other songs like that. Sometimes even “You Found Me” by The Fray can do the damage. But, it’s not something that can’t be recovered once I take the hit.

    • I would say for the most part that my reactions in situations of anxiety and situations that strain my moods are pretty different. My anxiety sits in this realm of physical responses (that don’t always coincide with my emotional responses) and then generally just terror and extreme worrying. I have responses of anxiety from vehicles, events, PTSD sorts of situations, and more, but even in the event of a PTSD flashback I don’t usually have a big mood change -thank goodness for the time I’ve spent working on it!

      When these mood shifts occur for me, they are almost always unassociated with anxiety. I guess they are just emotional responses that are way out of the realm of normalcy, and I have trouble reigning them in.

      The idea of these potential mood shifts DO cause me anxiety though. Enough to avoid the things that I’ve found that causes them anyway!

      I agree with you, I usually avoid NIN and that genre, which is hard because I used to love that kind of music. Unfortunately, it is just too emotional for me now.

      I also, like you, will avoid some things that I have very emotional memories associated with. I probably wont ever be able to listen to Ben Folds again, as I had an ex who was overwhelmingly obsessed with him. I feel like that must be something that most everyone does, because who wants to dredge up old negative memories?

      • NIN is what got me through the absolute worst of times when I was a teen and a in my very early 20’s. I still remember all of the lyrics to every song between Pretty Hate Machine and Year Zero. I can still listen to “Only” though! Oh, and “Right Where it Belongs”. God, Trent Reznor used to be the sexiest man on the planet to me. Only my own husband holds that title now!

        The idea of potential mood shifts cause me great anxiety! Lately, I’ve found myself obsessing about why I haven’t seen a depressive state following my long hypomanic episode in October. It’s been over a month since my last episode ended. I’d like to say that I’m “stable”, but I can’t help feeling that I’m in limbo. Is the anxiety enough to bring on a shift? I’d say that if external stressors are great enough, and there is one key thing completely wrong in my life, then it’s enough. Self-fulfilling prophecies? I hope not. I know the clinical term is “anticipatory anxiety”.

        I find myself getting angry over several bands. ICP, Evanescence (and that makes me sad, because Amy Lee has the most gorgeous voice), and The Doors (UGH!). Certain movies anger me. Anything Stephen King. That Ex ruined a lot of great things for me.

        The other stuff that is associated with my other Ex spawns anxiety, like the things I referred to in my other post. I will avoid the movie “Hackers” at all costs. Anything that retrieves a memory and a situation involving him is just awful. I’m not reminded about certain things about Ex that don’t revolve around the abuse. Even good things, nice songs, tender moments and the places and sensory surrounding them cause me that anxiety. I don’t want any pieces left of him at all. I went through great pains to erradicate him from my life entirely.

        I know in time, these emotions will seperate themselves from the stimuli. It’s already happened. I’m back to watching Sci-Fi and Fantasy without any problems. I’m OK with Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire, Queen of the Damned, the whole soundtracks, everything. So, I try not to completely give up on the things that I really want back.

  5. Npr is a good alternative 4 me.

    • I had a job recently where NPR was the station of choice, it was good for a while. For some reason though there are one or two DJs that would really get to me, Cheryl Waters in particular can send me into a suicidal tailspin in the space of 60 minutes. Why? I couldn’t tell you, but I tested this theory consistently until it helped send me to the hospital. I guess that woman just has some kind of super power… I wish she’d use it for good instead of evil though.

  6. The Bipolar Project

    Interesting post. I know what you mean about noise. I am extremely sensitive to noise. I find I get overwhelmed quite easily with too much noise, too many people or too much stimulation. I get very irritable, and I need to get away and be by myself. Big cities, with all the cars and lights and noise and people make me feel so drained and lethargic.

    I don’t censor myself because books / movies /music don’t really produce lasting mood changes for me. I find I have quite strong emotional reactions, especially to upsetting or traumatic events, but these rarely impact on my mood in any significant type of way. They might have though when I was really unwell. I can’t remember!

    • I find your use of “lasting” interesting, and I guess that for me lasting mood changes are a bit subjective because I tend to cycle so rapidly. Good point, thanks!

  7. The Bipolar Project

    You’re right. Lasting mood changes is very subjective when talking about rapid cycling. What I should have said is that I don’t have any clinically significant mood changes in response to songs/movies etc.

    I hope your cycling slows with time. It is a horrendous thing….but you already know that!!

  8. I’ve honestly never thought about censoring what I read/watch but this makes a lot of sense to me. It stupidly never occurred to me that oversensitivity might be a factor in bipolar disorder – I just assumed I was unnecessarily hypersensitive (because that’s how people saw me). That said, I will avoid certain songs on my iPod if I feel they are likely to affect my mood at times.

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