dopamine technology addictionWhat do video games, chocolate fudge brownies, and cigarettes have in common?

Thanks to the “happy” hormone dopamine, they all have a certain addictive quality to them.

The link between chemistry and addiction

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that signals to your brain when a goal is accomplished. According to this Guardian article, we learn to anticipate a reward in response to an action.  If the reward is met, a flood of dopamine sends a feel-good signal which then that encourages us to repeat the behavior.

When the brain is flooded with dopamine, an almost euphoric high is experienced. Coming back to “normal” can feel like a dramatic “crash” and can even result in depression.

The cycle of addiction begins when someone keeps on coming back to the source of this high. Sometimes the dosage for the same high feeling needs to increase over time.

Can technology create addiction?

TV shows, movies, and video games are designed to be instantly gratifying to the user.

Social media especially plays off our social instincts. When friends “Like” or comment on our posts or photos, we feel a rush of gratification.

It’s easy to get into this kind of dopamine induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking, which makes you continue to seek more.

Are there any healthy ways to access dopamine?

Your Instagram profile or video game doesn’t have to be the source of dopamine. Here are some other ways to go about feeling that “rush”:

  • Engage in physical activities such as running, biking, playing sports, or even just going out for a walk.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Set up boundaries around your phone use. Maybe keep your phone in the bedroom during dinnertime, or establish weekly coffee dates with a friend where phones are kept off the table.
  • Eat foods that contain dopamine-boosting properties, such as chicken, turkey, almonds, seafood, olive oil, or green tea.
  • Stay grateful. Keep a gratitude journal where you write down a few things you’re grateful for at least a few times a week.

Reach out today

If you or a loved one is struggling with any kind of addiction, get in touch with J.D. Murphy, LMFT today.  You can reach out by phone or by filling out the contact form.