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Part 2: A Link Between Biology and Technology

(September 15, 2010)

Too Much, Too Fast:
Craving and Addiction

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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.)

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A Link Between

The Island Syndrome
1. What Is the Island Syndrome?
2. What's in the News?
3. Difficult Questions
4. Why the Nature of Communication...
5. No Man Is an Island
6. Putting a Name to the Malaise
7. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
Living in the Bubble
8. What's in the News?
9. The Three Mandatory Machines
10. Life in the Bubble
11. Why We Keep On Keeping On
12. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
The Importance of the Brain's Biochemical Environment
13. What's in the News?
14. The Story of Dave
15. Importance of Neurotransmitters
16. The Stuff of Moods, Feelings and...
17. What Does Dave Need?
18. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
19. Introduction to Part II
20. The Island Syndrome
21. Excessive Text Messaging
22. Excessive Pornography Use
23. Understanding the Biology
24. Hormones and Neurotransmitters
25. The Pleasure Center
26. Too Much, Too Fast: Craving and...
27. The Female and Male Brains
28. Biology of Excessive Text Messaging
29. Biology of Excessive Pornography...
30. Conclusion: The Island Syndrome...
31. References