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Some Yahoo

Dopamine

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Posted (edited)

This is an advanced topic, and I am no expert on the subject.  So take this as musings.

Dopamine and Serotonin.  What are they?

Using a rock music analogy, Serotonin is Don't Worry, be Happy, and Dopamine is Born to Run.  Or, Serotonin is the phrase I feel good while Dopamine is the phrase This is gonna be GREAT!  Note that I capitalize the names of the chemicals.  That's because I have come to think of them as entities, or people.  

So.

Normal brain response goes like this:

  1. You hear, "We're going to Disneyland!".
  2. On the day you pile in the family minivan (my fantasy, my car), and all the way to Anaheim you're thinking "This is gonna be great!" (Dopamine response).
  3. During the day you get dopamine reactions to every ride and show, until you actually get on the ride.  I would postulate the rides, the lines, the waits are all calculated to give you Dopamine surges until the actual ride.  In fact, if you could just walk up and get on, the ride would be way less exciting!  Imagine you're walking the park and you see a roller coaster with no line, and another with a 2 hour long line.  You'd actually be attracted to the long line one just because the line was longer. After all, with all these people in line, it's got to be better, right?
  4. In the hotel in the evening, you're wiped out and happy (if you are a normal person).  This is the Serotonin response.  Until tomorrow morning.

Video games never give you the Serotonin.  They are designed to keep you thinking something great is just about to happen, but never actually pay off fully like you were hoping for.  

  1. Que for a dungeon. (Dopamine)
  2. Instance starts.  (Dopamine)
  3. You get a bunch of easy enemies (easy for the group, deadly to an individual).  Also the enemies are designed to whittle down your armor and health over time.
  4. Things get gradually harder, building up to the boss. (more dopamine)
  5. You get to the big boss, which takes 3 tries to kill. (Dopamine, dopamine, dopamine)
  6. The round ends and one of two things happen.
    1. You get the upgrades you wanted so you can go on to the next dungeon, or
    2. You don't get the upgrades you were hoping for, maybe you'll get it next time!  Queue again!

Dopamine is the reason you never get a you have won, the war is over and peace reigns in the land! message.  Serotonin means the game is over, you can unsubscribe and get on with your real life.  If the game even has an end, you get a score, but if you try again you might get a better score.  

When you have been living on constant Dopamine for 14 hours a day for the last 12 years, you get used to being constantly in an excited state.  Then when you have to go to school, take out the trash, study, work, these things seem supremely boring.  That's why gamers constantly think about gaming while they are doing anything else.  I have to tell you, this all seems like a totally normal response to me.  Who seeks out the most boring life possible?  Unfortunately for us, gaming is not real life.   You can't be a successful person at it.  Basically it's pissing away your life force on something that'll amount to nothing.

So at this point you feel you need to quit, but there are two paths you can go.

  1. You can find a way to make your ordinary life produce more excitement.  (Much ado about nothing)
  2. You can find a way to detox from the constant Dopamine rush.  (Live in a constant state of boredom for a while)

Most psychology articles I have seen suggest path 1.  Increase Dopamine during your normal day.  In fact, my doctor put me on Buproprion (Welbutrin) for this problem.  I'm not sure this is the right approach, but I'm not an expert, so I went with the pros on this one.  

It seems to me that it should be possible to become adequately excited about real life things that you can - after a Dopamine detox - maintain normal levels of Dopamine without needing the massive release we are used to.  It's like when you are used to salting everything and you have to stop.  For a long time everything tastes boring and bland, but after a time you start to become able to taste normally again.  If you then cheat and eat a bag of Granny Goose Dip Chips (230mg sodium), it actually tastes way too salty, even though in the past they were a favorite comfort food.

So after I get off this drug, and back to normal levels of Dopamine, I hope that the things of normal life will be able to hold sufficient excitement that I can go on without sinking into a depression.  For instance, I have a long-term goal to start a business.  The doors are nowhere near opening yet (in fact there are no doors).  But I can get excited about putting aside the first thousand dollars, then the next and the next.  I can get excited to learn business accounting so that I can understand my business better.  I can get excited to get out of California because they hate business here.  Seriously.

Keep in mind that I am not a doctor.  Maybe my whole outlook on this is nonsense.  Therefore do NOT alter your life because of me. I'm just trying to help you comprehend what an enemy Dopamine is to you in your detox.

So.  Here is what I do know.  I am, for all intents addicted to Dopamine (it's not addictive like crack, but still I am unnaturally marinated with it). I need to wean myself from the constant overdose.  That means a few things make sense to me.

  1. Seeking a Dopamine rush should be avoided for the most part.
  2. That means that simply getting it from porn or gambling or drugs or alcohol or mindless browsing won't help.  They will just shift the source of the problem.
  3. It also means that I am going to have to get excited about more long-term real life goals.

Dopamine is meant to motivate us to win.  The idea is to be as successful as possible in life.  Get the prey, get the girl, finish the project, win the battles, win the wars: that kind of thing.  Sure you don't always win, but Dopamine is there to keep us trying.  It's not evil, per se it's there to be used to help us succeed.  But we need to use our mind to channel it toward a more appropriate vector.

 

 

 

Edited by Some Yahoo
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Thanks for sharing this wonderful analogy of serotonin and dopamine, and what is the difference between the two.  It was a creative insight or musing!

This needs to be addressed on Game Quitters.  I have noticed a few people here that begin to experience feelings of "anhedonia".  It's a symptom wherein you feel minimal pleasure for hobbies or activities that you normally enjoyed doing. 

Basically, video game addiction can cause and also mask depression, because you're getting those instant dopamine hits consistently. 

I am not sure if Cam has posted a video about this topic, because it's inherently linked to people relapsing, in my humble opinion.  For example, a person starts off with this incredible enthusiasm and drive to accomplish multiple tasks and goals...the sky's the limit, it seems!  And then after a period of 30 + days into their detox, they start to feel the 'waning effect' of the dopamine.  Their brains are just not receiving enough dopamine to compensate for what they are accustomed to.  Hence, triggers may occur and that person is highly vulnerable to those triggers, and then....RELAPSE.

It's a chemical imbalance that needs to be assessed by a professional.  That's why I think 'gaming disorder' is a true mental health condition. 

~ Dani

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P.S.

Another reason why the topics of 'depression post-detox or during detox" and "dopamine / serotonin" should be addressed here is because people start blaming themselves for being unmotivated.  They might not realize there is a hormonal shift when they quit video-gaming 'cold turkey'.  They don't have the energy to sustain tasks anymore.  That's a dangerous place to be in.  It can make you feel miserable, like a failure, like you're hitting a brick wall or a stand-still with your goals.  Or even worse, suicidal.

If anything, I suggest that everyone be mindful of their 'energy' levels throughout the day and weeks into your detox.  Do you notice a significant 'dip' in energy?  How long does this last?  What time of the day?  What emotions do you feel when you lack the energy?  Is your sleep pattern off?  Or do you have trouble with keeping a sleeping regime?

Also, people might not want to turn to medication for relief.  They may want a holistic approach, or a naturopathic approach.  Everyone has a right to make their own decisions for their health, but I'd encourage an educated decision making process, rather than turning away from scopes of practice that could benefit you, even if it's just for short-term use (eg. medication).  You can both, medication and also other naturopathic approaches, and add psychotherapy into the mix if that can help you as well. 

 

 

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Well first off...

camdopamine.png.3dee21ec8548922e8f27a6f7152d6547.png

Secondly: you're right.  What dopamine withdrawal feels like in your head is, Everything is so boring!  Which is another topic Cam covers ably.  It helps for the detoxee to recognize and prepare for that.  The hobby list is a great place to start.

While I like the idea of pushing to recognize Gaming addiction as a health issue, because then health insurance could help, I dislike the idea because being told you are just sick can make a gamer (me anyway) feel like it's out of his control and he can do nothing to combat the issue.  The last thing that would be good for me would be to tell me to kick back and let the meds fix me.  I need to take charge of my situation and be active about defeating it.

Edited by Some Yahoo

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If a car does not have fuel, it can't run.

If the medications assist you with restoring dopamine levels, to give you that energy and motivation again to accomplish the smallest of tasks (personal hygiene, for example), I do not see anything wrong with that.  There is the 'stigma' about medication that you mentioned.  "I don't want to rely on medication, or to be called sick, because I want to take ownership of my own gaming detox".  It's a shame that stigma still exists even with mental illness.  As if having a mental disorder is some type of excuse.

This may be your own personal assumption about taking medication.  I sense that you feel it's a crutch, and I can understand that you want to feel a sense of empowerment and not rely on meds to fix you.    But I also think it's wise to leave this option open for those who tried everything else, but it hasn't worked.  Their energy levels are still low, they still feel great fatigue, they still have depressive thought patterns, and they cannot sustain concentration or have difficulty with memory.  Some people do benefit from medication.

Needless to say, the path to wellness is not just about medication, it's a holistic approach.  No doctor or specialist is going to force you to do anything more than take the medication or not.  The onus is up to you to investigate what is best for your health in the long-term. 

And sure, having a list of amazing activities to do does help.  But once again, if a car doesn't have fuel, it cannot run.  Thus, people may start feeling like failures for not accomplishing these tasks because they're stuck in that state of 'depression'.  They may need a boost.

I think it's a positive outcome if gaming disorder is recognized as a mental illness.  It brings awareness to the global community.  Individuals and their families can receive the treatment they need to re-establish a fulfilling  and productive life.  I don't know how that treatment can be offered through a medical care system.  Possibly coverage for individual and group therapy.

Lastly,  if there is research identifying a 'correlation' between excessive gaming and 'depression', and decreased productivity (skipping work or school), then there would be raised concern from an economic perspective as well.   

 

 

 

Edited by Dannigan
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Completely agree.  And I'm not against meds being used (under a professional's guidance, of course).  And I don't even care if I get called mentally ill or whatever.  The only thing I would have trouble with (and this is just me), is thinking of it as a pure sickness.  Curing sickness is a passive thing in my mind.  When I get a cold, There's nothing I can do but wait for the meds and my immune system to deal with it.  No amount of commitment and willpower is effective here.

I view game addiction as more related to being fat.  I made myself this way, and even though meds can help, it will be more an factor of opposing my own bad habits actively that gets the results I want.  Sick just happens to you, this is something I did to myself.,

Also, I want to say something about antidepressants.  This is totally just my (an one friend's) observation, but antidepressants do NOT cure depression.  It's much more like they pry open a door that can allow us to walk away from depression.  But we still have to want that and make the effort to actually do it.

As an example, before my meds, I would open a project for work, and the fact that I had trouble finishing it last time I worked on it made it impossible for me to start work today.  I sat in front of it, I grabbed the mouse, but it felt like I would have an aneurysm if I actually made my brain think about it.  With the meds, I open the project and I do make myself think about it some days, and other days I don't.  While it's no longer impossible, it still takes me conscious effort to make myself work.

 

Edited by Some Yahoo

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I made the decision to start taking anti depressants a week ago. I don't think giving up gaming caused my depression and anxiety, they were definitely always there, but losing that escape made my symptoms a whole lot more unmanageable. Last week on the meds I felt great, but today I woke up miserable, and you know what happened? I fucking relapsed. Played the sims for a hour before realising that wasn't helping me. It's like I used to play games so much to get away from my own life, and today I needed that so bad, but after 75 days of detox I saw straight through the game. It was no longer an escape. 

I'm still feeling crappy, and I'm unhappy that I gave into my cravings today, but relieved to have read this thread at least.

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