The Neuroscience of Addiction: Our Dopamine Nation

Discussion in 'Pornography Addiction' started by Doper, Sep 10, 2021.

  1. Doper

    Doper Well-Known Member

  2. Doper

    Doper Well-Known Member

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  3. Doper

    Doper Well-Known Member

    Lots of good stuff here, and timestamps. I just cranked the playback speed and mostly watched the whole thing.

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  4. Pete McVries

    Pete McVries Well-Known Member

    Keep 'em comin! :)
  5. Pete McVries

    Pete McVries Well-Known Member

    This and the other talk with Anna Lembke were really eye-opening even for a "veteran" like me. Mandatory watch, in my opinion, if one strives to get a better understanding how addiction works and what the underlying mechanics are.

    Thank you for posting!
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  6. DoneAtLast

    DoneAtLast Well-Known Member

    I wanted to bump this to say I got Dr. Anna Lembke's book and am most of the way through it. It is well worth a read. It is a quick, easy read too.

    I particularly like that she speaks very broadly about addiction. Sometimes with porn addiction it seems too different from other addiction types that we miss out on a lot of the wisdom out there, but this ties it all together pretty well. I'm learning a lot, and I'm also seeing her explain some things in pretty clear terms that we've sort of figured out on our own on these boards, and it is nice to hear it explained better than a lot of us have been able to.
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  7. Doper

    Doper Well-Known Member

    Well, I think we stand on pretty common ground with Dr. Lembke as she notes her pretty serious addiction to cheesy romance novels ... or, what do I know, maybe romance novels are really hardcore and Dr. Lembke is a total freak. In which case, she is basically a porn addict, and probably really "gets" us. I remember when I was maybe 10 or so, looking at one of my buddy's dad's Hustler mags, I would read the long-form stories, and they absolutely blew my little kid mind. Dopamine fireworks. So I imagine they are pretty similar drugs. As a side note, my friend's dad kept his stack of porn mags in my friend's (a little kid's) room ... a strange decision I've at numerous times pondered. But, I'm sure you can guess how it turned out.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2021
  8. DoneAtLast

    DoneAtLast Well-Known Member

    I've heard it argued that it is basically the female version of porn, though that strikes me as an over simplification. As I finished her book last night it struck me how now, in 2021, the question of whether "porn addiction" is a real addiction or not isn't in question. That battle is won, and it seems clear in the book that addiction has been defined in a much better way now that it doesn't seem like an absurd concept. A decade ago, most questions/discussions on this board were about whether porn addiction was real or a myth. The idea just isn't as abstract and revolutionary as it once was.

    I wish she talked more about triggers, though. I've heard her in podcasts talk about triggers and she had some really good ways of framing it. I think that is something porn addicts struggle with because at the beginning the only ones they recognize are the ones that are overtly sexual, and I've struggled to articulate the phenomenon in any real useful way. Hopefully that is something we'll see more of, maybe in an article or some other media endeavor.
  9. SmithSmithy

    SmithSmithy Member

    For those who read the book, did anyone follow the pain section? I was having a lot of trouble making a internally consistent theory, since based on the first half of the book it seemed like seeking pain should keep magnifying the pleasure part but instead it flattens out, whereas seeking pleasure magnifies pain without flattening out.

    Like I thought I had the first part of the book semi-understood with (from my reading) homeostasis (body wants level), dopamine threshold/set-point (body gets less sensitive to dopamine in general so takes more to "feel") and sensitivity to stimulus taking awhile to fade (triggers/response increasing with use), but the pain part implied to me that pain-induced pleasure is totally different.

    Anyways just wanted to drop thoughts and see what other people thought
  10. DoneAtLast

    DoneAtLast Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I think she tried too hard to make it simple, but it lacked a bit of coherence in the process. It might be because she is used to explaining this stuff in the context of 1 hour sessions; the book is definitely written the way she talks. She used the analogy of the balance but it didn't seem quite adequate. At other times it seemed like a pendulum would have been a better analogy - when you heighten your addiction you add more dopamine to the system and more energy, but it makes it swing farther both ways, not just one. I also wonder if "pain" might have been the wrong word, and "displeasure" might be better. So, the "displeasure" that arises from constant highs from a porn addiction might be sitting inside too anxious to go outside, depression, or for an opioid addict, the constant body pain that arises (I forget the actual term). If you introduce your own displeasure, like an ice bath (which I would not call pleasant but hesitate to call painful), then you're displacing the other displeasure insofar as it is relevant to dopamine and the opposite of pleasure, and you get a swing to the pleasure side, which lasts longer than the artificial highs you get through addictions. It ends up being a "choose your poison" sort of thing... at least as I understood it.

    Another way I understood it was that if I am addicted to porn and keep having to escalate because I've become tolerant, the dopamine levels are still going high, I'm just not enjoying it because of upregulation... which means the pendulum is swinging hard, but it isn't hitting the target it needs to, though on the back end of the swing it is swinging just as much without a learned tolerance. For the ice baths you have the opposite - you can develop a tolerance to it and let it swing farther into the pleasure territory, and since you aren't hitting yourself with addictive substances/behaviors, you don't get the same tolerance on the pleasure side. I can't say for sure that is what she was saying, but that is how I understood it given her examples.

    It is also possible that, at this point in time, she's developing these ideas with more data in her practice than in the brain science, and it will take a bit of time to catch up. I'm not positive on that, though, that could just be another artifact of her speaking/writing style favoring personal stories and examples.
  11. Doper

    Doper Well-Known Member

    At timestamp 13:40 Andrew talks about "social homeostasis and the neural circuits for social drive". I think some of it may be applied to understanding the stickiness of P addiction in cases of social isolation.
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  12. Pete McVries

    Pete McVries Well-Known Member

    I'm only halfway through but while listening to it, I thought one or the other could benefit from the information conveyed in this podcast and the topic is somewhat related to the OP.
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  13. True Change

    True Change Active Member

    I thought I would add to this thread rather than start a new one.

    Dopamine Nation: Finding balance in The Age of Indulgence by Dr. Anna Lembke is one of the best books I read last year. It is focussed on the mechanics of addiction, which are similar no matter the substance. There are a few sections in the book on porn addiction.

    This book was a game changer for me. I'm currently on a 100- day streak after fighting this addiction for 10 years. I can't say that the book was the ONLY factor - I've been working my ass off to change for years. But it is maybe number 5 in my list of most powerful changes.

    I HIGHLY encourage everyone read the book.

    Here are my notes from the book and a few podcast interviews with Dr. Lembke. My notes are mix of direct quotes and my own words.
    • Think about activities that feel good after you've done them- (exercise) rather than things that feel pleasurable while doing them (eating chocolate, masturbating, etc.)
    • We have to moderate sex, food and internet in our lives. We can't abstain totally from these.
    • Self -binding strategies: 1. Physical Distance: No internet at home, smartphone locked in the other room. etc. 2. Time: Only use the drug for 30 minutes per week, only on Saturdays, once every quarter, etc.
    • Our drives to find food and a mate are hard wired in us. They have been drugified in today's world.
    • The cure for pain is pain. For example, cold showers to cure depression
    • Many people in the west are unhappy because they don't have enough hardship
    • If you chase someone and have sex with them for your own pleasure, 3 hours/weeks/months later, you'll have a comedown. Then you'll go chase another person and start the cycle over again.
    • We live in an addictagentic world so we need to consciously engineer our environment to avoid triggers. Dr. Lembke's patients, when traveling, phone the hotel in advance and ask the staff to remove the television and the mini bar from the room.
    • 30 days of total abstinence is the minimum time needed to reset dopamine levels.
    • Radical honesty is a key part of recovery. Telling the truth brings intimacy.
    • The Opponent Process Theory: pain leads to pleasure. Examples are cold showers, intense exercise, rock climbing, facing fears, extreme sports, sauna, fasting. etc.
    • The brain is plastic: trust that it will heal if you abstain long enough and you will feel joy again
    • "Every pleasure has a price"
    • Addiction used to be mostly the lower class/poorly educated and substance abuse. These days, behavioral addictions and chemical addictions can happen regardless of race, income, family, education, etc. Access is everywhere and our culture encourages dopamine chasing.
    • 'Insight is the booby prize'. Trying to find out the root cause of your addiction through psychanalysis isn't helpful. Start taking action to change rather than asking 'Why did I start using this drug?'
    • Seeking comfort is a coping mechanism
    • For many people, total abstinence is easier than moderation. Moderation requires effort and energy to keep use under control.
    • Social media is a drugified version of social interaction
    • The invention of the smartphone was the inflection point for many addictions: gambling, pornography, social media, shopping, etc.
    • Television is a milder form of screen addiction
    • Embrace ascetism in your life - deliberately avoid convenience and unnatural pleasures. Seek out challenges instead.
    • Once you reset your dopamine pathways, what was once boring to you (school, job) may become fascinating again.
    • "The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7"
    • Masturbating to the edge, without going over, for several hours is highly addictive
    • The biggest risk is easy access to the drug
    • Technology had increased access, quantity, variety and potency to our drugs
    • Compulsive overconsumption is causing our demise and that of the planet
    • Motivation + Dopamine: Mice with low dopamine will not even bother to seek out food - they will starve to death
    • Prolonged overconsumption of high dopamine substances leads to a dopamine deficit in the brain
    • Hedonism will lead to anhedonia - the inability to feel pleasure of any kind
    • Every drug will eventually stop working for the user. They will cease to get any enjoyment from it
    • Stop running from painful emotions - tolerate them instead. Feel them - mindfulness
    • Put physical barriers or geographical distance between use and the drug - lock the smartphone in a kSafe lock box.
    • Track the time you spend consuming to increase awareness
    • Dr. Lembke's patient recovered from porn and masturbation addiction by 'avoiding lust in any form'. He stopped watching TV, movies, YouTube, women's volleyball matches, news articles that might be triggering. He wore shorts in the bathroom to avoid seeing his naked torso in the mirror while shaving.
    • Hide the naked body - your and others from sight - if you are struggling with sex addiction.
    • Many religions conceal the body and dress modestly to avoid problematic sexual compulsions
    • The porn addicted patient didn't feel constrained by avoiding all lust and media, he felt liberated.
    • Physical work - exercise or labor can distract us from painful thoughts
    • Dopamine levels increase 250% and Norepinephrine 530% after a cold water immersion
    • Hormesis: small to moderate doses of cold, heat, gravitational changes, exercise, food restriction
    • The typical American spends half their waking hours sitting today. That's 50% more than 50 years ago
    • Anxiety to treat anxiety: face social a fears to overcome social fears
    • Exposure therapy - small and gradual increases will develop mental calluses
    • All religions and code of ethics stress the importance of honesty
    • Lying had evolutionary advantages when competing for scarce resources. But in a modern world of abundance resources, lying leads to overconsumption and isolation
    • Lying makes use feel guilty and fearful that people will find out. Honesty is freedom
    • Being honest makes us aware of our actions
    • Recounting our experiences gives us mastery over them: AA meeting, church confession, writing in a journal, psychotherapy sessions, confiding in a friend, etc.
    • Overconsumption leads to indifference to relationships. Example: a free rat will help a caged rat become free. But if the free rat self administers heroin, it won't bother helping the caged rat.
    • The rush of dopamine and oxytocin we get from true intimacy is healthy
    • ' We must have faith that actions that seem to have no impact in the present moment are in fact accumulating in a positive direction"
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2022
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  14. Doper

    Doper Well-Known Member

    @True Change - Great post and congrats on your streak!

    @Pete McVries - That was exceptionally interesting and important. Definitely have to read his book.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2022
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  15. True Change

    True Change Active Member

    If guys want to hear more about how the ideas in Dopamine Nation can be applied to porn addiction, Gary Wilson (RIP) did a great interview with Todd Becker years ago on KSKQ radio. They discuss the opponent process theory, hormesis, dopmaine, and cue exposure therapy.

    I've listened to this interview about a dozen times. Here's the link:
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