JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's a frustration for 98 percent of us: a catchy song that seems to repeat over and over in our heads. It's known as an "earworm" and some of us are more prone to it than others.
"Folks that are diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, or who have obsessive thinking styles, probably a little more commonly have this phenomenon. They tend to go over thoughts a little bit more, over and over in their heads," explained Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Scott Bea.
Bea says people who are exposed to music a lot, like musicians, may also be more likely to get a catchy tune stuck in their heads. He says while men and women seem to experience "earworms" equally as often, women tend to stay with the song longer and find it to be more irritating.
And, there are certain songs that stick more than others. According to recent research, songs with intervals that jump up and down, like the whistling part of Maroon 5' s ' Moves like Jagger' or Lady Gaga's ' Bad Romance,' are more likely to get stuck in our heads.
Even more research is needed to determine exactly what's happening in the brain when "earworms" take hold, but Bea says repetition is often related to stress.
"One thing we know in psychology is that anything that gets repeated probably has some tension reduction characteristic to it, so even a sticky song might be capturing our attention so we' re not attending to other elements in our lives that might produce more tension and stress," Bea explained.
If you can't seem to get a song out of your head, Bea suggests doing a brain teaser puzzle or reading a novel. He says chewing gum or listening to the entire song -- instead of just the catchy part -- may help too.