Published on: November 28th, 2019
Your ADHD brain is deprived of dopamine by default.
This is why your ADHD brain is forcing you to constantly seek out new sources of dopamine.
Don’t worry though. We’re going to shed light on this topic today.
This article is going to:
- Expose the different stimuli which trigger the release of dopamine and make you feel excited
- Help you discover the best “sources” of dopamine for your ADHD brain
- Avoid the negative sources of dopamine that distract nearly everyone from living a happy and healthy life with ADHD
Let’s get started…
Why dopamine matters to people with ADHD
As humans, we’re essentially ruled by our brain’s ability to produce dopamine.
As people with ADHD, we’re especially ruled by our brain’s ability to produce dopamine.
For example, you know that little burst of excitement you experience every time you feel your phone vibrate in your pocket, and realize you got a new text message?
This little burst of excitement is your brain releasing a tiny “hit” of dopamine.
Your brain also releases little hits of dopamine every time you:
- Receive a notification on social media
- Get an email
- Hear some good news about a positive result
Releasing dopamine feels good because dopamine tells your brain that a “reward” is about to happen.
Dopamine is supposed to lead you towards a positive and rewarding path in life.
Historically, dopamine has helped humans survive and thrive.
For example, in the 1500’s, if a man was hungry, he would probably feel compelled to venture into the woods and hunt an animal.
After hunting the animal and feeding his family, the hunter would probably feel very satisfied, and his brain would release dopamine.
Pretty simple stuff right?
Dopamine has been a positive indicator for most of human history.
Let’s talk about dopamine overload in the modern age
Dopamine overload is a taboo topic.
To put it simply, modern society has essentially hijacked how frequently our brains produce hits of dopamine.
As mentioned in the earlier paragraphs of this article, we’re all releasing dopamine every time we receive a text message, email or social media notification.
In the grand scope of human history, dopamine overload is a brand new phenomenon.
Humans have never experienced this much dopamine before, until the last few decades or so…
You can probably imagine how this affects people with ADHD!
On one hand, people with ADHD are always stimulated and excited about something new.
On the other hand, people with ADHD are more scatterbrained than ever. Largely because we can’t figure out which hits of dopamine are actually good for us…
The uncomfortable connection between Pavlov’s dog experiment and dopamine production
If you’ve ever taken an entry-level psych course in high school or college, you’re probably familiar with Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiment involving dogs.
This experiment is also referred to as Pavlovian conditioning.
Just as a quick refresher, Pavlov was able to teach his dogs to salivate each time Pavlov played the sound of a metronome.
Pavlov achieved this by playing the sound of a metronome, presenting his dogs with food, and then repeating this process a few times.
After some repetitions, Pavlov’s dogs began to associate the sound of a metronome with meal time.
Pavlov could play the sound of a metronome and make his dogs salivate on command.
In other words, Pavlov figured out how to achieve a desired result by controlling the stimulus or source of dopamine production.
This is similar to how people with ADHD and all human beings respond to dopamine-inducing stimuli.
Here are some examples of dopamine-inducing stimuli:
- While dining in a restaurant, you see your waiter bringing a tray of food to your table
- You see your mailman walking towards your front door with a package
- Your boss calls you into his office and hands you a big Christmas bonus check
Since our ADHD brains don’t produce enough dopamine by default, we respond to dopamine-inducing stimuli much more aggressively than most.
People with ADHD are constantly seeking new sources of dopamine
It’s important to keep in mind that dopamine isn’t bad in itself.
The human brain needs dopamine to manage all sorts of important cognitive processes.
Once again, dopamine informs your brain that a reward is about to happen.
In today’s modern society, the major issue is that humans are having trouble figuring out which dopamine-inducing stimuli are actually beneficial.
Modern society is flooded with dopamine-inducing stimuli, and the human brain has not evolved to handle so much instant gratification and dopamine-inducing stimuli.
We’re all constantly being bombarded by exciting media headlines, text messages, social media notifications, advertisements and many other forms of messaging that our brains perceive as rewarding. Pavlov style.
Your ADHD brain still has so much untapped power and potential
At the end of the day, your ADHD brain has so much untapped power and potential.
But in all likelihood, you’re probably overly-focused on the wrong dopamine-inducing stimuli, like news media headlines and social media notifications.
Worst of all, you’re probably not even receiving any actual rewards in return!
You’re most likely being “rewarded” with a little burst of dopamine that leaves you feeling empty-handed after a few minutes or hours.
While this might sound pretty bad, there’s no need for you to feel bad about this.
This is a problem nearly everyone on this planet is struggling with.
You aren’t alone.
Dopamine overload is an enormous problem that has only been acknowledged over the last few decades.
Overall, here’s what people with ADHD need to know about dopamine…
You must learn how to control dopamine-inducing stimuli to the best of your ability.
Try your best to control how, when and where your ADHD brain produces dopamine, and use this to your advantage.
For example, you can try training your ADHD brain to feel excited about creative pursuits rather than social media notifications.
You ultimately have to use Pavlovian conditioning on yourself or you risk allowing someone else to use Pavlovian conditioning on you!