Tag Archives: dopamine

Dopamine Fasting Is Really A Thing

Thanks to co-morbid mental health concerns, I am a person with considerable dopamine issues. So when I saw a headline in the Inverse Daily newsletter about dopamine fasting, my interest was absolutely piqued.

“A dopamine fast? Clue me in, Inverse!” I said out loud to no one. (Did you know cats have the ability to roll their eyes?)

According to the article, it only takes a single day of abstinence from, well, most everything you’re used to flooding your senses. We’re talking social media, advertisements, entertainment, conversation, podcasts, audio books, video games, pretty much anything on the computer. No board games, no poker, no hate-watching reality TV, no re-writing librettos to make them pornographic – you see where this is going. And of course: no drinking, no drugs, no smoking, no sex. No junk food, no dessert. No gossip, no schadenfreude if you happen to witness your grumpy neighbor stepping in dog poop. Basically, nothing from which you derive some sort of pleasure or gratification, especially the immediate kind. Anything that makes your receptors fire off that sweet, sweet dopamine is off-limits.

Illustration of the Dopamine Pathway

Image: Inverse Daily

Presumably you can do stuff like wash dishes,  get a root canal, or build a pyramid. (But don’t take my word for it – Read more about exactly what they mean by “dopamine fasting” here.)

My imaginatory vagueness led me to come away with the idea that this fasting period sounds a lot like the idea of stillness, put forth by the Stoics and recently highlighted by Ryan Holiday in his new book, Stillness is the Key, which – oops – I haven’t read, because it’s a new book, and I’m a Poor – but I do get his daily newsletter, and I’m down with the concept, as the amount of information, disinformation, static, sound, and noise that is pelted at me daily is overwhelming. I’m a delicate flower, also known as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

(If you are also one of these HSPs, please don’t be offended. It’s good to be a delicate flower. There are just some drawbacks, like getting Stressed The Fuck Out™.)

Hear tell, there was once a time where a person was not reachable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter where on Earth they were. Hear tell, there once was a time when folks were lucky if the person they were trying to reach had one of those fancy new-fangled answering machines. You had to wait for the beep, is my understanding. And there was something called a “busy signal”. If you can imagine. Don’t even get me started on those party lines and “Emergency Break-throughs”.

iron lungs in the polio wardYeah. People also used to get polio and chill in iron lungs. And while I’m sure those were very good times – times that apparently anti-vaxxers, among others, are nostalgic for – this is the Modern Age. Remember to please tip your stagecoach driver!

So we need to actively seek out stillness. Because in this high-speed society, we no longer idle at Idle.

As far as my stress-addled brain can tell, dopamine fasting has a lot in common with stillness, insofar as shutting out the excess, the chatter, the constant flow of non-stop unnecessary information.

Do I REALLY need to know that Khloe Kardashian thinks it’s super-important that she puts herself first? Aside from this tidbit’s glaring, nauseating self-evidence, it doesn’t seem particularly useful to anyone except Khloe – and, I suppose, Kris Jenner, the most ‘extra’ stage mother since Rose Hovick. Furthermore, this (can I really call it) information is taking up room in my brain that could house something more important, an example of which I cannot cite, probably because I know the names of at least three Kardashian babies. And I do not even LIKE these people or watch their frickin’ show.

What sort of growth do I find in knowing the particulars of the latest Online Outrage War? Which feeds my soul more: letting my inner gestalt consist of the changing-by-the-microsecond Tilt-A-Whirl thoughts and obsessions of others as I swipe through my Twitter feed, or sitting with my own brain and choosing, very precisely, with care and consideration and intent, what material goes into it?

Whether it’s a dopamine fast, the path to stillness via Ryan’s book, or the wisdom of Aurelius and other Stoic philosophers, putting the brakes on overstimulation seems like a pretty good idea to me. At best, you may find some peace and some clarity. At worst, you may learn a few tips for life that you would not have otherwise, AND you will probably get higher than giraffe genitalia once your dopamine fasting is through, because tolerance is a thing (and the struggle is real).

 

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Cannabis and Creativity

419706793Is it possible that a disruption or deficit in the dopamine system could be at the root of the tendency to kick yourself for saying the “wrong” thing?  Because apparently, according to Science Daily, which is my porn, dopamine is responsible not only for creative thinking but, also, for recognizing your mistakes.

This tasty tidbit was tucked away inside an article about a study that showed chronic users of cannabis are less creative. It always comes down to the dopamine, it seems. Chronic users had difficulty brainstorming, and as previously mentioned, are poor at detecting errors. I will vouch for the error part. Even though I no longer get “high” per se, marijuana does blunt my affect and give me some brain fog that – while pleasant – is not conducive to producing quality work where precision is needed. Think run-on sentences and gamboling typos.

The study also says that chronic cannabis users produce less dopamine. This makes perfect sense to me and that may be why I don’t smoke it all day long like Snoop. (Well, to smoke like Snoop is also extremely expensive.) However, I do wonder: how exactly, in the context of this study, did they find out that people produced less dopamine? And less in comparison to what amount? What is a “normal” amount of dopamine? And did the study take into consideration co-morbid conditions that interfere with dopamine production and/or reuptake?

Anyway. I read somewhere that when you want to be creative, alcohol is a better go-to. And when you need to edit whatever you have produced or fine-tune it, that coffee is your best friend.

I don’t have a source on this, but it sounds good to me. I need to get a coffeemaker. And maybe start day drinking. ; )

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I Stand Corrected

I’ve been vocal in the past about alcohol and how it is a depressant – but I was apparently wrong about that. This study says that biochemically, a few drinks can act as well as rapid antidepressants (such as ketamine). An intoxicating level of alcohol turns GABA into a stimulator of neural activity as opposed to inhibitor, which is its normal role.

I just might start Day Drinking.

And after all the raving about Astaxanthin and Camp Hippo, wouldn’t you know, I completely and utterly FORGOT that I was doing this new regimen. I only remembered because Astaxanthin was in my tags. Completely went all the way out of my head. There must only be so much room in there.  (If you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about, click Camp Hippo in the tags)

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On Dopamine, From May

It effects everything.

A chemical in the brain typically associated with cognition, movement and reward-motivation behavior — among others — may also play a role in promoting chronic pain, according to new research. The chemical, dopamine, sets the stage for many important brain functions, but the mechanisms that cause it to contribute to chronic pain are less well understood. Study here.

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It’s All About the Dopamine, Baby

A new study by Neil Harrison and colleagues published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that a brain reward center, the striatum, may be directly affected by inflammation and that striatal change is related to the emergence of illness behaviors.

dopamine

Dopamine

It all comes down to the reward center and dopamine, always. Vindication once again. I have these hypotheses about things and then studies come out that validate them. It happens a lot. I told a doctor years ago I had an overactive limbic system and she scoffed. And of course now research has come out that bears out that hunch, that yeah, an overactive limbic system is a thing, your amygdala freaking out is definitely a thing.  Another doctor laughed when I said an fMRI would show important info about my mental illness – LAUGHED. And then of course it came out in studies that gee, fMRI is precisely the technology to use, they can see illness on an fMRI, a brain of a bipolar person is markedly, physically different in several ways than that of a “normal” person. Surprise surprise. I mean, really? Yes, of course it is. Because there’s this weird thing about mental illnesses, in that they originate in the organic brain. Not the mind, mind you. The brain, itself. As in, that grey and white thing in your noggin that inhabits the world of the physical. The meatball in meatspace. Because for all of our knowledge, some people still think that mental illness is a character flaw. And act accordingly towards those who have it. Philistines, I think they’re called.

Anyway. Normal. What a word. Normal is synonymous with average, incidentally. The norm, the average, it means the same thing, doesn’t it? Not to get into an etymological discussion, but seeing as how I do in fact have large amounts of inflammation in my blood (per my latest blood tests), more than likely due to the abscessed tooth at least in part, and from stress (which itself can cause inflammation, dontchaknow ), I am thus in possession of a deprived reward center – and my natural state is that of a deprived dopamine system anyway, so in short, besides being flat-line anhedonic, I am also a bit grouchy, so I think I can call this out, this so-called normalcy, and say, normal is that which does not stand out.  (Jeebus, that was all ONE SENTENCE. Talk about RUN-ON.)

Not that standing out is such a great thing. It can be an uncomfortable thing. And this is why my blog is called Everything I Say Is Wrong, Maybe. Because sometimes I have two contradictory thoughts at the same time that try to cancel each other out, and both seem equally valid, but I choose the one side, and then the other side comes up and says, Hey, you forgot something. You could be wr-wr-wr-wrong. Caveat, schmaveat. (Yiddish Latin is now also a thing.)

Well, whatever. The important thing here is not my blather, but rather, the reward system is hijacked by inflammation. Which is why chronic pain patients, for instance, have co-morbid depression in most cases. Inflammation leads to depression, says this study. Of course, there are many other roads to depression, which is so horribly named, because people mix it up with feeling “bummed out” over something situational, like “gee, I’m so depressed my team lost the game”, when that’s not actually the same thing. But calling it depression makes it easier to think it is, that people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, as the saying goes.

You assume I have boots, should be the standard reply to that. It’s like Marie Antoinette all over again. No, we don’t have cake. We don’t have boots. And we don’t have that convenient ivory tower, either. Yes, we have no bananas, we just are bananas. Pass the mucuna pruriens, please. Because the D2 receptor seems to have a lot to do with that. A tiny, microscopic thing could make you crash your car into a tree on purpose! Something that you need a microscope to look at rules my life! Isn’t that amazing? So a tiny microscopic organic thingy is responsible for whether you’re happy or sad or, like me, flat-line. Thanks, D2! Let me shower you with Abilify. But not too much – tardive dyskinesia is not our friend, after all. And myoclonic jerks are not my favorite thing.

Of course, there may be co-conspirators. Let’s not heap all the blame on D2, as there are other (named) dopamine receptors, and I will say publicly that I personally feel norepinephrine is involved in the avolition part – I’m saying there is a direct cause-effect to lack of norepinephrine and lack of motivation, even though most people count motivation as a dopamine thing. Personal experience and experimentation with my norepinephrine and dopamine levels tells me otherwise.

Yeah, shrinks just fucking love me. I go in and tell them, this is what I need.  Not, can you help me? They can’t help me. They can only provide a service that will make life a tolerable evil. Like the common cold, there is no cure for the sickness known as Time. But there are things that can relieve the symptoms, temporarily. Some better than others.

If you’ve made it this far through this rambling diatribe, I congratulate you. I admire your bravery and resolve. Now go do whatever you can to lower your levels of inflammation – anti-inflammatory diet is a good start, but watch out for those NSAIDs, they’ll kill your kidneys. (No one ever listens when I tell them that, and some people even get mad, like how dare I try to make sure they don’t die. So now I post unsolicited advice on my blog and if you want it you may have it, but if you don’t, luckily for you this blog post is over.)

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