The Brain That Changes Itself
Today, addiction is no longer a phenomenon for only people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs. We have enter a time where every single person in the world is addicted to something. Hundreds of years ago no one would have even imagined a time where people have food addictions.
Being that food is so easily available today people are developing food addiction. Something that people would only imagine in heaven or some type of paradise. Back in the 1700s what were people addicted to? Probably just opiums and alcohol. Today people are addicted to smart phones, gambling, video games, sex, porn, food, internet, alcohol, drugs, the news and social media and many more.
The Vicious Cycle Of Addiction
There are 4 things that happen to create an addiction. The first thing that happens is sensitization, which is basically your brain saying: “I’ve got what you need” Ex: first time drinking, first time playing a new video game, first time posting a pic on social media. The first few times you do something, you get a high rush of dopamine(the feel good chemical) and that makes you want more of whatever gave you that feeling.
Here’s where the downside of the addiction starts…
The 2nd thing that happens is desensitization and this happens after you have repeated the thing that made you feel good many times. After like the 10th time you smoked, drank alcohol, ate that same fast food meal or played that video game, you start to become desensitized to it. Which Is your brain saying: “I can’t get no satisfaction” Ex: Drinking for the 10th time, playing that video game for the 100th time, posting a pic on social media for the 10th time. Now you need a something new or something stronger to satisfy you.
Desensitization happens because your brain lowers your dopamine receptors to stay at a balance. When you first watch porn, or drink alcohol your brain gets a high rush of dopamine. But after you gave your brain a high rush of dopamine several times even in one single day, it reduces the pleasure receptors to keep you at a balance.
This is the dangerous part...
The 3rd thing that happens is something called hypofrontality and this happens when you start to eat more, drink more, smoke more, have sex more, play video games more, buy more shoes, and so on. You have become desensitized to what originally gave you that good feeling, so you start to lose control and lose willpower because there is decrease of cerebral blood flow in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for your willpower and self control or in other words the CEO of your brain.
The captain of your ship is falling asleep.
Hypofrontality Is your brain saying: “Bad idea, but I can’t stop you” This is where addiction goes haywire because now you can’t control what you are doing. The captain of your brain is now the captain of the Titanic and is steering you right into an iceberg.
Here’s where the never ending cycle begins….
There is a point in your addiction where you become disgusted with yourself so you go on this short mission to quit. During your time without your addictive habits, an altered stress response happens. This response is ultimately withdrawals from being without the thing you are addicted to. Withdrawl symptoms may include anxiety, fatigue, sweating, vomiting, depression, seizures, and hallucinations.
The only way to get rid of these withdrawal symptoms is either ride it out for a grueling 7-14 days or turn back to your addiction. What do most people do? Turn back to their addiction because it’s the quickest way for relief. Now you don’t just feel bad because of the thing that caused your addiction in the first place(divorce, a break up, failing, no sense of direction, bullying, depression, anxiety etc.), now you feel even worse from having withdrawal symptoms because of quitting your addiction. It’s a double whammy. This leads you right back to your addiction.
An altered stress response Is your brain saying: “I need something to take the edge off.” This is an altered stress response because you don’t have what you are addicted to. So because of withdrawal symptoms, you fall right back into your addiction to take off the edge.
What Makes Any Addiction So Dangerous?
If you drank alcohol once, did a drug once, play video games once, watched porn once, ate fast food once, went on social media once, surfed the web once, went shopping once, gambled once, you mostly likely won’t die just from doing these things once. What makes it so dangerous is how your brain response from these pleasureful addictive things. When having an addiction to something your brain actually changes itself.
Any addiction is considered a chronic disease because an addiction actually changes the brain circuitry. This is because of Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change its neural pathways and synapses due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. In more simpler terms, the brain is like plastic, where it can be changed and molded from environment, experience, and thinking alone. Due to neuroplasticity, you can grow smarter even at 80 years old. On the same breath, you can grow dull and unintelligent as you age also.
Since the brain starts to change itself from repeated behaviors to seek pleasure, so does your behaviors. The thing that once gave you high pleasure, now after the 20th time doesn’t. You need to play a new video game, take a stronger drug, or drink more alcohol to get the same effect. But the kicker is you will never get the same dopamine high as your first experience even if you quit for years.
The Dark Paradox Of Addiction
The wanting and cravings increase while your pleasure or liking decrease. Addicts want “It” more but gradually like “It” less. Your brain wants more alcohol but you stop liking it. Your brain wants to scroll more on social media but you stop liking it. Our brains trap us into our addiction by needing more of whatever we are addicted to but giving you less pleasure.
These gamers who play video games 12 hours a day probably don’t even enjoy playing anymore, it’s just their brain’s cravings wanting to play it. That is why whenever I do something that I know is going to give me a high rush of dopamine, I limit it. If I start to repeat the behavior then unconsciously I will develop an addiction to it. That is why moderation is key. You should use these addictive things like drinking to reward yourself for something you completed or accomplished. That’s how you develop good habits to push yourself to accomplish something big before you reward yourself.
Reminder: Talk to your doctor before quitting any substance.
Thanks for reading 🙂
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