What Is A Dopamine Detox And How Does It Work?

Every day, we succumb to the powers of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that enhances the way we feel pleasure (via New York Times). Whether that's watching reality TV drama or reaching for your third bag of chips that day, we're motivated to trigger our dopamine.

However, with the evolution of accessible technology and multiple screens, it's easier to get a quick hit of the feel-good chemical now than it was before. Social feeds like Instagram and Facebook employ the same techniques to keep us coming back as slot machines do and that can create an addiction pattern, per Harvard University. "The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works," Chamath Palihapitiya, former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, told Harvard University.

With the average American spending over seven hours looking at their screens in a day (via CompariTech), the solution to cut down on your time spent on screens might be a dopamine detox. Read on to know more about how you can cut off any kind of addictive behavior with "dopamine fasting."

Dopamine detoxes can help you with addictive behavior

Dopamine performs many functions through receptor pathways that affect our learning, motivation, mood and attention (via Medical News Today). However, the term "dopamine" became popular as a reference to the way it's released when we engage in pleasurable activities — from alcohol and cocaine to sex and social media.

Psychologist Dr. Cameron Sepah helped popularize "dopamine fasting," where "the goal is not to reduce dopamine or elicit functional brain changes" but to reduce "time spent on problematic behavior," he told Live Science. Sepah identified six compulsive behaviors that could be targeted by a detox: emotional eating, excessive internet usage, gambling, porn and masturbation, thrilling activities and recreational drugs (via Medical News Today).

Essentially, you're cutting out these activities for a period of time, leaving you bored, lonely and reaching for simpler activities that are less addictive. "The idea is to ... temper our consumption" of rewards, Dr. Anna Lembke, medical director of addiction medicine told Live Science. Since research shows that there are connections between addictive behavior and dopamine, this may be a way for you to rethink the way you interact with your screens and your free time.