You may be wondering how an activity can bring about brain-chemistry changes if no addictive substance as such is ingested. The explanation lies in a better understanding of the relationship between body, mind and biochemistry.
The power of our thoughts and feelings
All our thoughts, feelings and actions affect brain chemistry; and brain chemistry affects our thoughts, feelings and actions. You have no doubt heard about the ‘power of positive thinking’. There is also power in negative thinking. Happy thoughts cause a release of chemicals in the body. So do angry thoughts, sad thoughts and worry thoughts. Were you ever in physical or emotional pain and then smiled because of something sweet your child or pet did and then realised that your pain was diminished? Were you ever feeling great and then happened to think about some disturbing situation that caused you to feel tired or perhaps develop a headache? These are examples of the power of our thoughts and feelings.
Our thoughts and actions
Even more powerful than thoughts and feelings are our actions. Think about a time when your child or pet did something amusing and you laughed out loud. How did you feel? A full body laugh changes your brain chemistry for 45 minutes. We refer to these as endogenous (inner) opioids because the release of this brain neurotransmitter is not triggered by something you consume; it comes from within.
There are activities that change our biochemistry so much that we want to do them over and over. Some people get a biochemical response from shoplifting or inappropriate sex that is equal to, or greater than, a heroin injection. Nature has given us natural substances in the brain to give us pleasure and a sense of reward, and to mediate pain. These neurotransmitters work to give pleasure as well as relieve physical as well as emotional pain. People born with the inability to feel good will look for ways to stimulate the release of these chemicals.
The neurotransmitters that are released from risk-taking or sex are metabolised through the same dopamine pathway as cocaine, heroin or alcohol. And if the person has a reward deficit that predisposes to addiction, the activity that works will be repeated as often as necessary to get the desired reward. For the person predisposed to addiction the chosen ......
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