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The brain and addiction

Reward seeking behaviour

The brain wants pleasure and survival.

The brain’s reward system governs how the brain feels when we do things.

It recognizes what gives pleasure, excitement & discomfort.

The brain continues to look for things that helps with happiness and survival and avoid pain.

How strong the reward system depends on how often we get the reward and how big the reward is.

Smartphones are the world’s smallest “slot machines”. It elevates your dopamine receptors and you continue to use it over & over again because it offers unpredictable awards” Dr Kimberly Young

Videogames for example - World of warcraft- are built to exploit this part of the brain!

Kill monster, get points

Move on to next level

Super excited…..skills are improving

Happy music……what a good feel

Win game…….mission accomplished

Next game……next hype…….it feels sooooooo good

Immediate effect on the brain……….spike in dopamine release

Continued use reduces the brain’s dopamine production

The brain is “fooled” that the behaviour has survival value

Consequently…you want more & more of the same behaviour

Massive release of dopamine occurs, and the dopamine levels become low/depleted

Endless pleasure ends up in punishment…….mental health issues!!

  • Depressed mood

  • Moodiness

  • Anxiety

  • Increased levels of irritability

  • Withdrawal symptoms

  • Restless

  • Decrease in impulse control

  • Increased risk for substance abuse to feel better

Stuck……….brain’s reward system is in trouble.


refer to blogs to follow!

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