Every now and again, a content list will circulate across social media targeting the memories of people born in the 90s or 80s with the hopes to provoke joyful nostalgia.

The lists usually include old gaming systems, 90s cartoons, and old school supplies or toys that we completely forgot existed. For the average person, these content pieces usually invoke brief feelings of “oh my gosh, I’m getting so old” and moments of nostalgia until they stumble across something else online. For an extremely nostalgic person, however, it can lead to a long-enduring, painfully nostalgic black hole.

Those who experience extreme nostalgia can hear one song, smell a familiar smell, play a certain game or drive by an old hangout spot and be mentally transported to exact and ideal years of their past. Even if the past experience was positive, for some reason an overwhelming feeling of sadness is experienced.

For me, music and TV shows are the main triggers for painful nostalgia. An old r&b song, like Goapele’s “Closer To My Dreams” will cause my mind to go from a reminiscent time shared with friends to a mental transportation back to 2003 when I heard the song in the Jessica Alba movie, Honey, which will then take me back to the late nights that I would spend listening to the radio station slow jams on my bedside purple alarm clock radio that I won in a contest back in elementary school. From there, the memories continue to flood in, I realize that these are moments in time that I will never get back, I panic and then become anxious about the purpose of life.

It’s crazy because sometimes, I’ll get painfully nostalgic about decades that I didn’t even fully grow up in. When A Different World came on Netflix, I was overjoyed as I remembered watching reruns of it as a child. I’ve watched the full series at least three times now and I always cry on the last episode because I realize that Jasmine Guy is now in her 50s. My parents are also in their 50s and I’m in awe of how they have been able to live this long and experience so much change without going crazy. That’s why when an older person goes on a rant about how things were “back in my day”, I listen to them speak without rolling my eyes. In general, I don’t understand how parents can watch their children grow up without going through severe depression.

I remembered describing my nostalgia one time to a group of friends and I was surprised that none of them could relate. They all said that sometimes they get nostalgic and feel old, but they are able to shake the feeling after a few minutes. I, on the other hand, live with the feeling for hours and sometimes am revisited by the feeling in the coming days.

One thing that I hate that I get nostalgic about is people. This fact alone is probably why I stay in relationships that I know are destined to end a lot longer than I should. I can look into a person’s eyes and recall all of the random times and moments we had during the “good old days” even if our present relationship is not in a good state. Sometimes I’ll miss my old friends that I haven’t talked to in so long that it would be weird if I reached out, so instead I just live in that memory until the feeling passes.

I was looking up stories of other people that dealt with extreme nostalgia, hoping to both normalize my feelings and seek help, and I came across a personal account on Quora that helped explain the brain’s processing of continual nostalgia:

“I once heard a story on talk radio about a girl who had a near-photographic memory. However for this girl her excellent memory permanently crippled her happiness and her life. Why? Because basically all day, every day, she would relive this one single magical summer day from her childhood where she was swimming in her grandmother’s pool with her relatives. She spent hours and hours picturing the faces of her loved ones and re-feeling all of those emotions she felt on that perfect day. She loved this single memory so much that she spent all of her time watching it in her mind.

Now think about this. Your brain is like a muscle. Muscles get stronger based on how you use them. If you do bicep curls all day, every day, your biceps are going to get huge. You’ll find it incredibly easy to lift heavy objects from your hip to your face. But what if you decide you want to run a mile? Your legs are so weak because all you’ve ever done is exercise your biceps.

This is what nostalgia is doing to you. You are creating deep grooves in your brain for nostalgia. Each time you practice nostalgia the groove gets deeper. As the groove gets deeper your thoughts are more likely to fall in to that groove. Eventually the groove will become so deep that any time you are not actively trying to think of something else you will fall in to the groove. When the groove has become so deep that you can’t think of other things even if you try, then you are exactly where the girl in the radio story is today. ”

Do you deal with extreme nostalgia? Do you have any suggestions for those who may be struggling with depression from extreme nostalgia?



  • Show Comments

  • Anna

    I deal with extreme nostalgia and oftentimes it can be scary. I can transport myself to random moments in time and even feel nostalgic about times I was present in. I literally felt the same way watching a different world. I honestly have no clue how to help it. But it definitely becomes stressful because I can be happy one moment then panic thinking about the purpose of everything.

    • Bryanda Law

      Wow, I am so glad that I’m not alone in this feeling, but it definitely does suck. My emotions are like that too; happy one moment and then anxious the next.

  • M

    This article made me cry; I’ve never heard someone put into words EXACTLY what I feel on a daily basis! My husband always tells me, "You’ve got to stop living in the past" but it’s so hard when things feel so vivid in my mind. I, too, have a day swimming as a child that plays in my head very frequently; the sense of peace and contentment I felt that day was so precious. Thank-you for writing this. Wow, I’m really floored, truly felt so alone in having these nostalgic thoughts that would go on and on.

  • Michael

    I experience intense nostalgia on a adaily basis. This feeling, however, is not exclusively negative. It often comforts me thinking of the best times of my life. It’s a melancholy sort of feeling, and I’ve grown to be able to turn my extreme nostalgia into something positive. Anyone who is struggling with depression from nostalgia should at least try to do the same.

  • Jaliyah

    This is why I love the internet. It connects me with people I don’t even know but share so much in common with. Your posts are always so relatable and its just great knowing that I’m not as alone on certain things as I often think I am. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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