Monday, August 30, 2021

Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence (Dr. Anna Lembke)

Dopamine is a chemical messenger (also known as a neurotransmitter) that creates a reaction in the human body to various pleasure stimuli. Watching a cute dog video on YouTube, getting a slew of likes on Facebook, winning a bet in an online casino, running, drugs, alcohol, sex are all things that create that dopamine stimulus - and all are activities that can become addictive. Dr. Anna Lembke wrote Dopamine Nation particularly to address our abundance of stimuli and the increasing numbers of people who are struggling to manage it.

Lembke, a psychiatrist, spends much of the book talking about the addictive nature of technology and how it has fueled overconsumption - that despite tremendous wealth and access to resources, we are increasingly unhappy as a result. She notes that this unhappiness - or pain - is the body’s response to constantly seeking out and getting its dopamine fix from technology and destructive behaviors. Borrowing on the lived experiences of her patients, Lembke illustrates how these individuals battled through their addictions and how they worked to address them. She also shares their successes and setbacks in showing that consumption and addiction are fierce struggles.

Lembke’s illustrations of modern addiction and the issues it is unloading on the West are dynamic and powerful. She weaves in steps to take to address these issues throughout the book. While Lembke doesn’t quite take the smartphone out of your hand, she does advocate for some thoughtful steps she utilizes around her own home - no smartphones at the dinner table, for example. Many of us, however, could arguably use stronger nudges and encouragement to tweet less and smell the roses more.