Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke MD

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I studied pysch in school and so I’ve carried an interest through the years despite not going further with it and becoming a therapist. I want to get into a more diverse set of books this year, and in particular I’d like to expand the types of non-fiction I read.

Why not read about how our culture is geared towards high, immediate reward system for just about everything. That addiction is on the rise. That depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders are in higher numbers ever than before. Social media has sucked up more of our lives and our time than ever before, and it can have large repercussions reaching through the internet into your real life when you misstep. These are things the generation that comes after me has had to deal with since childhood, although it by no means only affects that generation. Grandpa is on Facebook, too. Probably too much.

This book was going to address all of that and more and so I was on board with it at first. The author is a practicing therapist and with her client’s permission she tells bits and pieces of their stories and then talks about how society as a whole treats the subject and yada yada. It starts out with a doozy, a dude who is addicted to porn and masturbation tells his tale that starts way back in his puberty years and has carried into his 60s. It’s affected his jobs, marriages, and life to the point where he’s become depressed and potentially suicidal. The guy took it to Bender levels when he hooked his dick up to an electrical shock machine… that would shock his chock to the rhythm of the music he picked. Mmmhmmm. Yep. And there’s a whole community built around it. Mmmhmm. Yep. That is dedication to a craft.

I was wondering what I got myself into, when the next story felt like it was me. It was a guy dealing with ADHD and GAD/Depression, and was given Paxil and Adderall. This is literally the concoction I was given in high school. So the examples of disorders and how they are exacerbated or helped by this or that is varied.

I like that she’s a practicing therapist, she has permission to tell the stories of her patients with the hopes that their stories of how they stopped doing these overindulging behaviors and came to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. She also divulged something very personal of her own which I wasn’t expecting. It was a Twilight and Fifty Shade of Grey addiction that she had to force herself to walk away from. It became an obsession and she admitted to retreating into a fantasy world that she had to find a way back out of again. To me and maybe to you it sounds silly, but to her it wasn’t.

There were some interesting things in here but ultimately I think she’s too dismissive of meds and too into touchy-feely shit that just does not work for therapy resistant depression and other things. A lot of her techniques I’ve already tried and she acts like they’re wonder cures, if only her clients would try it. I was hoping for a lot of studies done on these topics to go along with the individual stories but there weren’t many. I was also hoping for something a touch less anecdotal than what I got. It’s definitely an interesting look into how society has built itself around dopamine producing entertainment but I set this down when it started to veer from the scientific into opinion and even religion which is just not what I wanted from a neuroscience book – even if it’s not academic.

I also want to say I was super nervous because she was self-narrating the audio… but it was actually one of the better non-fiction self narrations I’ve come across.