Does dopamine fasting work?

Looking to control some bad habits? A psychologist explains how dopamine fasting can help.

The temptation is always there

Dopamine fasting is the latest wellness trend in Silicon Valley. According to Dr. Cameron Sepah, it’s legit — if you do it right. Instead of trying to quit impulsive behaviors, he recommends stimulus control. Conferring to Sepah, these days it's extra difficult to mitigate compulsive behavior. Dopamine is a pleasure chemical released by the brain that plays a huge role in motivation and reward. If you indulge in a glass or two of wine, your brain begins to link that wine as a feel-good escape method. But over time, that reward is dulled, and it takes more to stoke it.

Dealing with addiction

“Even though dopamine fasting has the word dopamine in the title, the thing that we're fasting from is not from dopamine itself, but from behaviors that are essentially reinforced by dopamine. Well, specifically, it's not focused on reducing dopamine. That's one thing that's important to clarify. It's to reduce the amount of impulsive behaviors that people are engaging in. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that's in the brain that's associated with the anticipation of reward. I think most people can relate to the fact that addiction isn't just about alcohol or substances, but there are increasingly behavioral addictions that are quite common. So, that could be internet gaming, it could be shopping, gambling, it could be pornography, masturbation, it could be novelty, thrill-seeking”, Dr. Cameron Sepah tells Brut.

Temptation and the technology that enables addiction is so much more ubiquitous than it ever has been

While there’s currently no research looking specifically at the ‘mental boost of dopamine fasting,’ it’s based on a behavioral therapy technique called ‘stimulus control,’ which research has shown can help people with addictions by removing or restricting triggers, says Cameron Sepah, a clinical psychologist and professor at UCSF Medical School, who is widely credited with coining the term.