Dopamine and its influence on the brain
written by Sabrina Man
The human brain is a complex and intricate organ that regulates bodily functions and governs our emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. Among the numerous neurotransmitters in the brain, dopamine plays a significant that responsible for relaying messages between neurones that brings about motivation and identifies experiences of pleasure. Considered as being the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter, it has garnered considerable attention due to its association with pleasure, reward, and motivation. However, as with most things, too much of this can cause extreme harm and unhealthy habits. In this tech-oriented world where watching short videos and moving away from books become the norm, especially for young teenagers, our dopamine is persistently increased to high levels, leading to alterations in the reward system. This frequent occurrence is the cause for this increasing population of people that are more aggressive, have poor impulse control and shorter attention spans. Conditions that arise from this include ADHD, addiction, binge eating, and gambling, which can all have detrimental impacts to our mental and physical health. Other psychiatric disorders and psychoses such as schizophrenia is associated with an overactive dopamine system, causing symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganised thinking. Every time we feel a burst of dopamine, we yearn for more. Many spend hours a day stuck in a constant loop of consuming more media to maintain that satisfactory feeling in their mind. According to the latest available data, the daily average screen time for teenagers in 2023 is 7 hours and 22 minutes per day, equating to 43% of a teen’s waking hours. This data reveals that on average, nearly half of a teenager’s time awake is spent in front of a screen. Such a large amount of time is spent scrolling through various medias, releasing unhealthily large amounts of dopamine with every minute with so few people realising its implications on behaviour and well-being. Over time, the brain will adapt to these high dopamine levels and reduce its natural dopamine production, creating a dependency on these addictions. Being multifaceted, dopamine can provide us with a plethora of joys, but we shouldn’t grow too greedy and moderate our time spent in front of a screen. In order to overcome the deleterious effects of the overloading of dopamine in the brain, we must engage in other activities that can aim to reset our brain’s dopamine levels, known as a ‘dopamine detox’. A few examples of this include daily meditation or mindfulness, exercising, having a healthy and consistent sleeping schedule, and creating exciting daily routines that will help you stay motivated. Staying persistent and disciplined with implementing these activities into your daily routine will surely aid in the problems aforementioned. Though the time of recovery could vary from person to person and the process may be tedious, sticking to this will undoubtedly improve the quality of your life.