THE ISLAND SYNDROME
Part 2: A Link Between Biology and Technology
(September 15, 2010)
Having your pleasure center stimulated sounds like fun — and it is. However, when it happens too often or too strongly, the system becomes unbalanced in two ways. First, over time, the pleasure center becomes more and more insensitive to dopamine. A person then finds himself needing more of the stimulus (the substance or behavior). As tolerance builds it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to recapture the original feeling of pleasure.
Second, too much stimulation creates dopamine depletion, leading to a variety of problems and unpleasant sensations. People who are chronically dopamine-depleted have a generalized feeling that "something is missing", lending a lingering type of psychological distress to their day-to-day life. When such feelings combine with existing habits and certain types of situations, the feelings are transformed into cravings, which make it difficult for people to resist the temptation to repeat the behavior. For this reason, dopamine is sometimes called the "craving neurotransmitter".
To make matters worse, dopamine depletion also impairs the quality of emotion-based decision making. When dopamine is low, people find it difficult to resist short-term rewards, even when such behavior can lead to serious long-term consequences.
The hallmark of low-dopamine decision making is the remorse that comes later.
I am sure that, with a little thought, you can come up with your own examples of people who have made decisions so as to feel good in the moment, even though those decisions ultimately led to a lot of trouble. The hallmark of this type of low-dopamine decision making is the remorse that, later, causes people to shake their heads and lament, "I don't know what came over me." (Perhaps followed by, "Can you ever forgive me?").
Let us jump ahead in the discussion for just a moment by asking the question: What happens when a susceptible individual uses technology to engage in a behavior that would otherwise be impossible, when such behavior stimulates his or her pleasure center unnaturally? If you guessed that such people risk depleting their dopamine levels, thereby creating inner cravings that may lead to addictive behavior with serious long-term consequences, you are correct.
At this point, we are almost ready to pull it all together and discuss, more thoroughly, the link between biology and technology. Before we do, however, there is one last topic I need to cover: the differences between the male and female brain. (After all, in a few moments, will be talking about girls who text message and men who use pornography.)
© All contents Copyright 2021, Harley Hahn
A Link Between