· By PYM STORE
Can you really "detox" dopamine?
Does a dopamine detox work to lower dopamine?
A dopamine detox is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) developed by Dr. Cameron Sepah, a California-based psychiatrist intent on helping people manage addictive behaviors.
The goal of Dr. Sepah's dopamine fasting program is not to deprive the brain of dopamine or lessen dopamine levels, as the name implies.
The general concept behind Dr. Sepah’s “detox” is for people to let themselves feel lonely or bored, or to try simpler activities instead of reaching for quick “hits” of dopamine.
By fasting from activities like gambling and social media, which trigger the brain’s neurotransmitters, people become less dependent on the emotional “hits” that dopamine provides.
Is a dopamine fast worth it?
Even though a dopamine detox doesn't actually lower dopamine levels as the name implies, breaking the pattern of compulsive behaviors and replacing them with healthier activities can certainly be beneficial.
The problem for most people is not that their dopamine levels are too high. It's that they are addicted to unhealthy habits that provide them with quick "hits" of dopamine. These unhealthy habits lead to financial or health consequences.
Over time, more and more of the stimulus is required to feel pleasure from the activity. This actually leads to dopamine deficiency, as the body tries to get back into balance.
Symptoms of dopamine deficiency include not feeling pleasure from previously enjoyable experiences, poor focus, procrastination, low motivation, moody or anxious, low sex drive, trouble sleeping, and tiredness.
So a dopamine detox can be beneficial for detaching from addictive behaviors, but it doesn't lower dopamine levels.
How long should you do a dopamine detox?
2 weeks are the minimum to experience noticeable effects.
30 days are long enough to see changes and make for a good monthly challenge.
90 days is the minimum to really break a habit, though this can be a daunting commitment for some, so it may be best to work up to it.
5 Steps to Detox from Dopamine the Right Way
1. Identify which behaviors are causing a problem in your life
What's your guilty pleasure(s)? What is it that you know is causing a negative impact on your health, finances, or relationships? Some things might be:
- Social media
- Recreational drugs
- Video games
- Binge-watching Netflix
2. Create barriers
Dopamine fasting involves making the unhealthy habit difficult to participate in, in order to decrease the pleasure. This can mean:
- Putting something out of reach or out of sight
- Making it inconvenient (don't have it in the house)
- Limiting time spent with others sharing this habit
- Installing blocking apps and software
- Giving someone else control of necessary resources, like credit cards
3. Selecting beneficial alternatives
The goal isn't to completely deprive ourselves of dopamine. It's to find new, healthier sources of pleasure and dopamine. This might be:
- Exercise or joining a sports team
- Getting sunshine
- Ice baths
- Playing with a pet
- Drawing or painting
- Calling a loved one
4. Understanding underlying causes
Part of dopamine detox is understanding why you want to engage in a specific activity. Is it coming from a place of insecurity? Stress? Trauma?
It's recommended to explore this with a therapist or other mental health professional, but journaling may be beneficial for initial exploration.
5. Seeking guidance
A dopamine detox can be complicated by the symptoms of withdrawal in some cases, and working with a mental health professional can help ensure the detox is done safely and effectively.
A dopamine detox is a cognitive behavioral therapy approach that helps break unhealthy habits and addictive behaviors.
It does not actually lower dopamine levels and is not a practice of denying yourself all pleasure.
It's important to work with a professional if you are experiencing severe addiction that is dangerous to your health and well-being.