“Dopamine fasting” may be Silicon Valley’s latest wellness trend — but does this sciency-sounding fad actually have evidence to back it up?
During a so-called dopamine fast, extreme practitioners abstain from any experience that brings them pleasure, including but not limited to sex, food, exercise, social media, video games and talking, according to Vox. Some people go so far as to avoid making eye contact, chatting with friends or even performing moderately-fast movements, all in an effort to avoid stimulation, the New York Times reported.
By taking a break from sins and small pleasures, fasters attempt to “reset” the brain’s reward system, a network wired, in part, by a chemical called dopamine. After a fast, they report feeling more focused and finding more joy in the activities they’d avoided, according to Business Insider.
Despite its supposed benefits and good intentions, dopamine fasting has stirred up controversy.
Dr. Cameron Sepah, a psychologist who helped popularize dopamine fasting, has argued that some people have pushed the practice to an unfounded extreme and attracted attention from “clickbait journalists” bent on “mocking Silicon Valley.” Meanwhile, some recent news articles have argued that the trend oversimplifies the role of dopamine in the brain to the point of being inaccurate.
Just because rich white dudes in Silicon Valley do it doesn't mean it's smart.
Or makes sense at all.
"Dopamine fasting" is 1) illogical 2) massively neuroscientifically ill-informed 3) Not worth media coverage, let alone the NYT.https://t.co/3C2B5fWLJi
— Bethany Brookshire (@BeeBrookshire) November 10, 2019
To clear up any confusion, Live Science spoke with experts about the neurobiology of addiction, tried-and-tested therapeutic practices and the many roles of dopamine in the brain. The take-home message is that “dopamine fasting,” though perhaps poorly named, grew out of established methods in addiction therapy and may be beneficial — if executed properly. [Continue reading…]