You have 4 summaries left

Hidden Brain

The Path to Enough

Mon Jul 17 2023
DopamineAddictionMental HealthRecoverySupport Groups


The episode explores the impact of dopamine on addiction and mental health. It discusses the brain's attempt to balance pain and pleasure, the role of dopamine in addiction, and the benefits of dopamine fasts. The episode also examines the connection between dopamine and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. It explores strategies for addiction control, including self-binding techniques and intentional pain. The importance of support and recovery in overcoming addiction is highlighted, with a focus on 12-step groups like AA. Overall, the episode provides insights into the complex relationship between dopamine, addiction, and mental well-being.


Dopamine fasts can reset reward pathways in the brain

Dopamine fasts have been found to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression by resetting reward pathways in the brain.

Cutting out high dopamine substances can improve mental health

Eliminating high dopamine substances and behaviors can significantly improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Intentional pain can be anxiolytic and mood stabilizing

Practicing intentional pain, such as exercise, can have anxiolytic and mood stabilizing effects.

Support groups like AA play a crucial role in recovery

Engagement in support groups like AA has been shown to be as effective, if not more effective, than professional treatment for addiction recovery.


  1. The Brain and Addiction
  2. Recognizing and Addressing Addiction
  3. Dopamine Fasts and Addiction Recovery
  4. The Impact of Dopamine on Mental Health
  5. Hormesis and Self-Binding for Addiction Control
  6. Intentional Pain and Recovery from Addiction
  7. The Power of Support and Recovery

The Brain and Addiction

00:00 - 07:52

  • The brain constantly attempts to bring pain and pleasure into equilibrium.
  • Pressing down on the pleasure side of the seesaw triggers bursts of dopamine.
  • Overindulgence can lead to a chronic dopamine deficit, causing anxiety and irritability.
  • Anna Lemke, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, has studied addictions and imbalances in the brain.
  • She experienced her own addiction to romance novels and erotica.
  • Engagement with addictive activities can create a trance-like state where time is lost.
  • People seek escape from themselves in a narcissistic society.
  • A turning point for Anna was an encounter with a young resident during teaching.

Recognizing and Addressing Addiction

07:29 - 15:10

  • Motivational interview with Stylie to explore reasons for behavior change
  • Realization that being present for family and work is more important than the pleasure of reading
  • Putting behavior into words helps increase self-awareness and enables behavior change
  • Decision to get rid of Kindle as a barrier to accessing romance novels
  • Experience of withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from romance novel reading
  • Recognition of addiction and commitment to abstain for a longer period
  • Using our minds to battle problems involving the mind
  • Explanation of the internal seesaw in the brain and dopamine imbalance
  • Dopamine fast as a way to reset dopamine receptors and increase dopamine transmission
  • Withdrawal symptoms can be severe depending on the severity of addiction

Dopamine Fasts and Addiction Recovery

14:43 - 22:03

  • Dopamine fasts can help reset reward pathways in the brain and improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Severe addictions may require medical supervision and support to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • A patient named Delilah initially resisted the idea of a dopamine fast but eventually agreed to try it.
  • Delilah experienced withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, increased anxiety, and insomnia when she stopped using cannabis.
  • After four weeks of abstaining from cannabis, Delilah reported feeling better overall with reduced anxiety and depression.
  • Many patients are surprised by the positive effects of a dopamine fast because they don't realize the cumulative harm caused by their drug use.
  • Research has shown that symptoms thought to be treated by drugs may actually be caused by them.
  • A study with alcoholic men who had clinical depression found similar results.

The Impact of Dopamine on Mental Health

21:40 - 29:43

  • A classic study found that stopping alcohol consumption resolved major depressive episodes in 80% of alcoholic men with clinical depression.
  • Stopping substance or behavior of choice for four weeks can largely resolve symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and attention in about 80% of patients.
  • The overabundance of things that trigger dopamine in our brains may be causing feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • There is a hypothesis that the pursuit of pleasure and abundance is contributing to the mental health crisis we are experiencing.
  • Happiness surveys show that people in wealthier nations were happier in the past, but this trend has reversed in recent years.
  • Increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide are observed worldwide, particularly in wealthy nations.
  • Increased internet usage and digital media consumption may be linked to rising rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thinking among teenagers.
  • Cutting out high dopamine substances and behaviors can significantly improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Self-binding techniques can help control addictive behaviors by creating barriers between desire and consumption.

Hormesis and Self-Binding for Addiction Control

29:21 - 36:51

  • Organizing time around rewards is a modern phenomenon.
  • Using time as a self-binding construct can be beneficial.
  • Setting specific limits on substance or behavior usage can help with moderation.
  • Self-banning and avoiding stepping stone behaviors are effective strategies for addiction control.
  • Environment plays a significant role in shaping choices and behaviors.
  • Exposing oneself to mild to moderate doses of pain or discomfort can lead to increased resilience and happiness.
  • Hormesis, the science of setting in motion, supports the idea of seeking out adaptive pain or challenge.
  • Exercise, ice-cold water plunges, prayer, meditation, and exposure therapy are examples of hormetic practices.
  • Engaging in exercise leads to elevated levels of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins.
  • Paying upfront for dopamine through activities like exercise allows for sustained elevated levels without depleting reserves.

Intentional Pain and Recovery from Addiction

36:25 - 43:58

  • Paying for dopamine upfront allows us to experience feel-good moments without depleting our dopamine reserves.
  • Engaging with our brains and money share similarities, such as buying things on credit and triggering dopamine intentionally.
  • The accessibility of credit cards makes us more vulnerable to addiction.
  • In the modern age, intentional asceticism is necessary to navigate a world of overwhelming access to highly reinforcing drugs and behaviors.
  • Practicing intentional pain, like exercise, can be anxiolytic and mood stabilizing.
  • Insulating ourselves from digital media can help manage consumption and preserve balance.
  • Living this way has led to a shift in perspective where life being too easy was the source of unhappiness.
  • Addiction often leads to increasing levels of social isolation, replacing human connections with substances or behaviors of choice.
  • Healthy relationships trigger dopamine release through oxytocin, the love hormone.
  • Recovery from addiction involves moving out of isolation and making deep connections with others.
  • Groups like AA and NA play a crucial role in helping people battle addiction by providing support and connection.

The Power of Support and Recovery

43:36 - 50:15

  • Engagement in AA and other 12-step groups is as effective, if not more effective, than professional treatment for those who actively participate.
  • The secret of these 12-step groups lies in providing a sober social network, a specific path for recovery, and de-shaming individuals by showing them they are not alone.
  • Telling the truth is a central value for successful recovery, as it helps maintain sobriety and builds trust.
  • Creating an 'I and thou' moment with patients, where both parties are fully present and vulnerable, can be healing.
  • People in recovery from severe addictions provide deep wisdom on pleasure, pain, consumption, and navigating a dopamine overloaded world.