7 Benefits Of Going On A "Dopamine Detox" (2023)

It’s kind of ironic to come across posts on TikTok about dopamine detoxes, especially when you’ve been scrolling for five hours without blinking. But the hashtag #dopaminedetox has nearly 20 million views for a reason: It speaks directly to everyone who lives for the rush of social media, as well as anyone who feels the need to do 10 things at once all the time.

The practice isn’t a literal “detox”; rather, it’s more about taking a break from certain habits that are known to trigger the reward system in your brain, like scrolling online. If it gives you a “rush” of excitement, you can thank the feel-good hormone dopamine for that.

While there’s nothing wrong with doing things that make you feel good, a dopamine detox can help you assess why you rely heavily on these habits. According to licensed psychologist Stephanie Gardner-Wright, LMSW, taking a break from these habits won’t actually impact the level of dopamine in your brain. Instead, it encourages you to take a break from the constant stimulation so you can see what lies beneath. “If you find yourself constantly reaching for your phone, or if you always have to have podcasts and TV on in the background, it might be time to try a dopamine detox,” she tells Bustle.

A “dopamine fast” can also come in handy if you no longer enjoy the quieter, slower moments in life, thanks to all the over-stimulation, adds Dr. Taylor Day, a clinical psychologist and mental wellness and alignment coach. Think about how reading feels painfully boring, even though you used to breeze through books. Or how you don’t have the patience to cook anymore because it’s way more exciting (and convenient) to get takeout.

When a rush of dopamine is constantly calling your name, it’s easy to see why these things won’t hit like they used to, and why you might want to “detox.” Read on for more about the practice.

How To Do A Dopamine Detox

(Video) Dopamine Fasting: 7 Benefits of Dopamine Fasting!

While you don’t have to do a dopamine detox, that nagging need to do more may be a sign to log off, turn off the electronic devices, and check in with yourself. The same’s true if you have that call to be stimulated 24/7.

To do a dopamine detox, start by zeroing in on what spikes your dopamine most. Day suggests looking at the areas of your life that make you feel burnt out or exhausted, as well as the habits that give you a quick “thrill.” Are you big into online shopping? Social media? Forums? Video games? Getting into arguments in the comments section? Or do you need to have 800 movies, songs, and podcasts playing at once?

Choose one or two, then “consider limiting or abstaining from these activities for a period of time,” says Jaime Mahler, LMHC, a licensed mental health therapist. Try to cut back for an hour, a whole day, or up to seven days, depending on what you’re giving up. Use the time to check in with yourself, to think about why you crave the hits of dopamine, or what you might be covering up.

It’ll help to replace the chaos with more mindful, “centering” activities. Instead of scrolling first thing in the morning, try yoga. Rather than watching Netflix for hours before bed, create a chill nighttime routine. Maybe turn off that podcast you always listen to and drive in silence — with nothing but your own thoughts — instead. You can also go for a walk, talk to friends, or slow down by simply doing nothing at all. Mahler suggests listening to the sounds outside your window or letting your thoughts pass without entertaining them as a way to feel calmer and more present.

The Benefits Of A Dopamine Detox

(Video) How Dopamine Detoxing Changed My Brain

Need more inspo to give it a try? Here are some benefits of doing a dopamine detox.

1. It Reduces Overstimulation

Even though it might feel good in the moment to scroll, it’s only when you put your phone down that you realize how stressed you actually feel. “The constant input of social scrolling and other compulsive activities can be very over-stimulating,” Gardner-Wright says, adding that taking a break can temporarily help you feel “calmer and less overwhelmed.”

2. It Can Boost Creativity & Productivity

If you’ve been struggling with a lack of creativity or a dip in productivity, a little boredom and silence can actually do you good. “Dopamine detoxes help you to tap back into your creativity and intuition by removing distractions and the mental static of staying constantly stimulated,” Gardner-Wright explains. “It makes room for your own thoughts, ideas, and sensations, instead of being distracted by them.”

3. It Helps You Check In With Yourself

It’s super common — and also super understandable — to seek out pleasurable activities as a way to stuff down tough feelings. Overloading your brain with stimulation can also push away unwanted thoughts. But sometimes it’s good to actually let them come up.

When you quite literally turn off the noise, all those emotions and sensations will bubble up, and you’ll have a chance to analyze them. According to Gardner-Wright, you can get through the discomfort — and maybe even start to come out the other side — by journaling, deep breathing, and talking to a friend or therapist.

4. It Helps Prevent Burnout

Taking a break from your go-to dopamine-spiking activities — whether it’s online shopping, watching chaotic TV, or scrolling social media — can serve as a nice reset for your body and mind.

“Often, when we are in this mentality of going for more, our body goes into overdrive and our nervous system can easily become fried,” says Day. That’s why taking doing this “detox” can even help treat and prevent burnout.

5. It Can Make Slower Activities Fun Again

“You may not be able to immediately read an entire book after an initial detox, because your brain and nervous system are so used to constant high levels of stimulation,” Gardner-Wright says. “But you’re literally building new neural networks by practicing that slower habit of reading a book, taking a walk, or focusing on one activity at a time.”

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6. It Helps You Strike A Better Balance

Of course, the goal of a dopamine detox isn’t to give up everything you’ve ever loved, but to see how your go-to habits impact you, Mahler says. “Taking a step back allows the brain to see what moderation may look like for you,” she tells Bustle.

7. It Gives You Back Autonomy

That balance can help you feel more in control of your dopamine “cravings”, too. Instead of feeling like you have to watch Love Island as you get ready for bed, it’ll feel more like a choice. The same goes for checking your phone, looking at TikTok, etc.

What It’s Like To Do A Dopamine Detox

Real talk? You’ll probably hate doing a dopamine detox, at least in the beginning. “It's hard to stop doing something your brain loves,” Mahler says, so you’ll probably have a hard time not looking at your phone, turning on that podcast, or watching TV while you eat dinner. It’ll feel weird, quiet, and incredibly boring compared to what you’re used to.

And that’s OK. Remind yourself that this isn’t a punishment for your brain, but a nice little break. “The energy behind the detox should be one of healing and self-growth,” Mahler says. Think of it as a form of mindfulness that’s helping you tap back into yourself.

(Video) DOPAMINE DETOX: How to Reset Your Brain For Success

Studies referenced:

Firth, J. 2019. The "online brain": how the Internet may be changing our cognition. World Psychiatry. doi: 10.1002/wps.20617.

Hartston, H. 2012. The case for compulsive shopping as an addiction. J Psychoactive D. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2012.660110.

Westbrook, A. 2021. Striatal dopamine synthesis capacity reflects smartphone social activity. iScience. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102497.

Sources:

Stephanie Gardner-Wright, LMSW, licensed psychologist

Dr. Taylor Day, clinical psychologist, mental wellness and alignment coach

Jaime Mahler, LMHC, licensed mental health therapist

(Video) Dopamine - Critical Care Medications

FAQs

What are the benefits of dopamine detox? ›

Dopamine detox helps to stop engaging in unhealthy behaviours. Whenever you feel the need to start a detox period, do something useful like practising healthy sports, reading a new book and so on. In addition, dopamine detox facilitates a healthy lifestyle by regulating emotions.

How many days should I do dopamine detox? ›

You'll abstain from instant hits of dopamine and replace them with healthier activities that produce dopamine. With the detox, you'll stop doing these addictive activities for a set period, which is often recommended to be around 90 days. Dr. Cameron Sepah created the original concept of dopamine detox.

How dopamine detox saved my life? ›

I couldn't drink i couldn't socialize. I literally couldn't do anything except for be at home. And

What is the fastest way to detox dopamine? ›

Dopamine detox is a concept which a lot of people follow. Consider it to be a detox, but for your brain. The simple rule to follow is to avoid engaging in any activity which you enjoy doing or which stimulates the brain-it could be browsing your phone, avoiding screentime, listening to music or engaging in any hobby.

How long does a dopamine reset take? ›

These factors may vary by person but generally involve how long it may take to restore dopamine levels to normal and natural levels. Typically, it takes about 90 days to notice a difference with experiences of pleasure and dopamine levels.

What else releases dopamine? ›

Dopamine is most notably involved in helping us feel pleasure as part of the brain's reward system. Sex, shopping, smelling cookies baking in the oven — all these things can trigger dopamine release, or a "dopamine rush." This feel-good neurotransmitter is also involved in reinforcement.

Does dopamine detox actually work? ›

The misunderstood version of the “dopamine detox” is little more than a fad, with no scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. A true “dopamine detox” is impossible because the brain continues to produce dopamine all the time.

Can I watch TV on a dopamine detox? ›

Now that we've put that to bed, some behaviours to abstain from during a dopamine detox are: Gaming. Drug use. TV/video consumption (that means no Netflix, Amazon prime video, Hulu, Crunchyroll, YouTube... the list goes on)

Can I listen to music on dopamine detox? ›

Dopamine fasting is a form of digital detox, involving temporarily abstaining from addictive technologies such as social media, listening to music on technological platforms, and Internet gaming, and can be extended to temporary deprivation of social interaction and eating.

What are signs of low dopamine? ›

What are the symptoms of dopamine deficiency?
  • You lack motivation, “the drive.”
  • You're tired.
  • You can't concentrate.
  • You're moody or anxious.
  • You don't feel pleasure from previously enjoyable experiences.
  • You're depressed; you feel hopeless.
  • You have a low sex drive.
  • You have trouble sleeping or have disturbed sleep.
23 Mar 2022

How can you trick your brain into releasing dopamine? ›

There are three ways you can trigger your brain release dopamine, and get out of your rut, says Cable.
  1. Play to your strengths. Identify your signature strengths and the impact you can have by using them on a daily basis. ...
  2. Be willing to experiment. Avoid the risk of routine by shaking things up. ...
  3. Tap into purpose.
30 May 2018

Can people with ADHD do a dopamine detox? ›

For people with ADHD, a “dopamine detox” could make things worse, not better. There is no sure way to detox, or completely stop the release of dopamine. The most common form of a dopamine detox is a tech detox, where people avoid using their phones for a period of time.

How often can you do dopamine detox? ›

To help people schedule this, he suggests setting aside 1–4 hours at the end of the day (depending on work & family demands), 1 weekend day (spend it outside on a Saturday or Sunday), 1 weekend per quarter (go on a local trip) or 1 week per year (go on vacation.)

What are the symptoms of high dopamine? ›

Having too much dopamine — or too much dopamine concentrated in some parts of the brain and not enough in other parts — is linked to being more competitive, aggressive and having poor impulse control. It can lead to conditions that include ADHD, binge eating, addiction and gambling.

How long does it take for brain chemistry to return to normal? ›

Generally, though, it may take up to two weeks for the brain's chemistry to return to normal after experiencing extended periods of alcoholic blackout.

What emotions does dopamine control? ›

Higher levels of dopamine can lead to feelings of euphoria, bliss, and enhanced motivation and concentration. Therefore, exposure to substances and activities that increase dopamine can become addictive to some individuals.

Does dopamine return to normal? ›

Recently, scientists have discovered that after long periods of abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, the brain's physiology does begin to return to normal. By maintaining lower dopamine levels in the brain, dopamine receptors can start returning to higher, normal levels.

What causes high dopamine levels? ›

Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward. When you come to associate a certain activity with pleasure, mere anticipation may be enough to raise dopamine levels. It could be a certain food, sex, shopping, or just about anything else that you enjoy.

Which foods contain dopamine? ›

What is the dopamine diet?
  • Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt.
  • Unprocessed meats such as beef, chicken and turkey.
  • Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel.
  • Eggs.
  • Fruit and vegetables, in particular bananas.
  • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts.
  • Dark chocolate.

Is there a dopamine pill? ›

Pramipexole (Mirapex).

This is a prescription medication available in tablet form in brand and generic versions. The short and long acting forms are used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD), a chronic degenerative condition in which dopamine cells slowly die causing movement and mood related disorders.

What drugs cause low dopamine? ›

Dopamine Depleting Drugs
  • What Are Dopamine Depleting Drugs? Content. ...
  • Tetrabenazine (TBZ) Content. ...
  • Deutetrabenazine (DBZ) Content. ...
  • Valbenazine (VBZ) Content.

Can you live without dopamine? ›

Without dopamine, our bodies and brains simply wouldn't work. We'd all be catatonic. Dopamine is not a “reward” chemical. That's not actually the way our body uses it.

How can I trick my brain to do hard things? ›

How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things (dopamine detox)

How long does it take to get dopamine fast? ›

There are no set rules when it comes to how long you should dopamine fast for; Cameron Sepah suggests increasing your fasting steadily, beginning with one to four hours of dopamine fasting at the end of the day, building up to one day per weekend, then one weekend per quarter, and finally one week per year - perhaps ...

Why do ADHD brains crave dopamine? ›

Indeed, ADHD brains struggle to sustain motivation when rewards are mild or are linked to long-term gratification. As a result, ADHD brains search for stimulation that can increase dopamine more quickly and intensely. Ultimately, the pursuit of pleasurable rewards may become a potent form of self-medication.

How do you stop dopamine from chasing you? ›

  1. Break the cycle and restore balance. Start with a dopamine fast. ...
  2. Place obstacles between you and your addictive behaviors. There are three ways to "bind" yourself from – or place limits on – the behavior to which you're addicted. ...
  3. For long-term change, radical honesty and community are key.
4 Apr 2022

What supplements will increase dopamine levels? ›

Along with eating a balanced diet, many possible supplements may help boost dopamine levels, including probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, ginkgo and ginseng. This, in turn, could help improve brain function and mental health.

Does music lower dopamine? ›

Listening to the music you love will make your brain release more dopamine, study finds. A new study has found that dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning — plays a direct role in the reward experience induced by music.

Is ADHD a lack of dopamine? ›

As you know, one trademark of ADHD is low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine — a chemical released by nerve cells into the brain. Due to this lack of dopamine, people with ADHD are "chemically wired" to seek more, says John Ratey, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

How do you check dopamine levels? ›

There is no reliable way to directly measure the levels of dopamine in a person's brain, but there are some indirect ways. Some blood tests measure the levels of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. However, these do not represent the levels of neurotransmitters in the nervous system itself.

How do I know if I need serotonin or dopamine? ›

Deficits in serotonin and dopamine can cause a host of signs and symptoms, including depressed mood, fatigue, lack of motivation, decreased sex drive, and difficulty concentrating. A dopamine deficiency can also cause tremors, muscle cramps, and difficulty with balance.

Does fasting increase dopamine? ›

Taken together, these results indicate that fasting caused a change in the properties of somatodendritic dopamine release, possibly by increasing dopamine release, and that this increased release can be sustained under conditions where dopamine neurons are highly active.

How do you unlock happy chemicals? ›

Ways To Increase Your Happy Hormones
  1. Exercise. Most people are familiar with the fact that exercise releases endorphins. ...
  2. Certain Foods. When it comes to your hormones, the foods that you consume also play an important role. ...
  3. Sexual Activity. ...
  4. Massage. ...
  5. Meditation. ...
  6. Laughter. ...
  7. Forest Bathing. ...
  8. Practicing Gratitude.

What hormone is responsible for motivation? ›

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter and hormone. It plays a role in many important body functions, including movement, memory and pleasurable reward and motivation. High or low levels of dopamine are associated with several mental health and neurological diseases.

What chemicals do ADHD brains lack? ›

ADHD brains have low levels of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is linked arm-in-arm with dopamine. Dopamine is the thing that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure center.

What careers are good for people with ADHD? ›

People with ADHD would do well in the following roles, too:
  • Sales representative.
  • Small business owner.
  • Hospitality worker.
  • Chef.
  • Teacher.
  • Emergency first responder.
  • Computer technician.
  • Artist or writer.
2 Oct 2021

Why do people with ADHD crave sugar? ›

Sugar and other high carb foods boost dopamine levels in the brain, leading us to crave them more often when dopamine levels are low. Since kids with ADHD have chronically low levels of dopamine, they are more likely than other kids to crave and eat sugary or carbohydrate-heavy foods.

What can you do during a dopamine fast? ›

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical that sends messages in the brain, that's critical to the brain's reward system. One iteration of dopamine fasting involves abstaining from things that bring instant gratification, from social media to sex, gambling, food, shopping, music, sometimes even eye contact.

What is the name of the chemical that puts the brakes on dopamine? ›

Neuroscientists have identified this mechanism as a cellular process behind memory and learning. In the current study, scientists focused on synapses between dopamine-containing neurons and those that contain GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory chemical.

What is a dopamine personality? ›

People who express certain genes in the dopamine system tend to be curious, creative, spontaneous, energetic, and mentally flexible. They are risk-takers and seek novelty. People who have high serotonin activity (or who take SSRI antidepressants) are more sociable, more eager to belong.

Can too much dopamine cause schizophrenia? ›

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that can cause disruptions in thought processes, perceptions, emotional responsiveness, and social interactions. Changes in brain chemicals, including dopamine, can contribute to the development of schizophrenia symptoms.

Does low dopamine cause anxiety? ›

A brain chemical linked to pleasure and depression may also trigger fear, according to a new study. Researchers say this may explain why the neurotransmitter dopamine, known to cause addictive behavior, may also play a role in anxiety disorders.

Which drugs can cause brain damage? ›

  • ALCOHOL.
  • 10 Dangerous Drugs:
  • That attack your Brain and. Body.
  • AMPHETAMINES.
  • BARBITURATES.
  • COCAINE.
  • HALLUCINOGENS.
  • HEROIN.

Can you repair damaged neurotransmitters? ›

A minimum of 3-6 months is required to restore neurotransmitter levels to normal. However, it takes longer to restore the body's total store of neurotransmitters. If a patient stops the neurotransmitter therapy too quickly, they may experience a return of their original symptoms.

Is brain damage caused by drugs reversible? ›

In fact, many brain changes or neurological complications that result from substance use can improve or even be reversed when you stop using drugs or alcohol.

Is dopamine detox a real thing? ›

Dopamine fasting is a form of digital detox, involving temporarily abstaining from addictive technologies such as social media, listening to music on technological platforms, and Internet gaming, and can be extended to temporary deprivation of social interaction and eating.

Is dopamine detox good for ADHD? ›

For people with ADHD, a “dopamine detox” could make things worse, not better. There is no sure way to detox, or completely stop the release of dopamine. The most common form of a dopamine detox is a tech detox, where people avoid using their phones for a period of time.

Can I listen to music on dopamine detox? ›

Can you listen to music on a dopamine detox? - YouTube

How do I know if my dopamine levels are low? ›

What are the symptoms of dopamine deficiency?
  1. You lack motivation, “the drive.”
  2. You're tired.
  3. You can't concentrate.
  4. You're moody or anxious.
  5. You don't feel pleasure from previously enjoyable experiences.
  6. You're depressed; you feel hopeless.
  7. You have a low sex drive.
  8. You have trouble sleeping or have disturbed sleep.
23 Mar 2022

Can you live without dopamine? ›

Without dopamine, our bodies and brains simply wouldn't work. We'd all be catatonic. Dopamine is not a “reward” chemical. That's not actually the way our body uses it.

What are the symptoms of high dopamine? ›

Having too much dopamine — or too much dopamine concentrated in some parts of the brain and not enough in other parts — is linked to being more competitive, aggressive and having poor impulse control. It can lead to conditions that include ADHD, binge eating, addiction and gambling.

How can I trick my brain to do hard things? ›

How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things (dopamine detox)

Is ADHD a lack of dopamine? ›

As you know, one trademark of ADHD is low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine — a chemical released by nerve cells into the brain. Due to this lack of dopamine, people with ADHD are "chemically wired" to seek more, says John Ratey, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Why do ADHD brains crave dopamine? ›

Indeed, ADHD brains struggle to sustain motivation when rewards are mild or are linked to long-term gratification. As a result, ADHD brains search for stimulation that can increase dopamine more quickly and intensely. Ultimately, the pursuit of pleasurable rewards may become a potent form of self-medication.

Does ADHD have low dopamine? ›

Dopamine levels in the brain have to be within a very narrow margin in order for a person to be able to focus on their work. But in ADHD, dopamine levels are too low. Stimulant chemicals such as caffeine or amphetamines tend to increase dopamine levels.

How do you stop dopamine from chasing you? ›

  1. Break the cycle and restore balance. Start with a dopamine fast. ...
  2. Place obstacles between you and your addictive behaviors. There are three ways to "bind" yourself from – or place limits on – the behavior to which you're addicted. ...
  3. For long-term change, radical honesty and community are key.
4 Apr 2022

Is there a dopamine pill? ›

Pramipexole (Mirapex).

This is a prescription medication available in tablet form in brand and generic versions. The short and long acting forms are used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD), a chronic degenerative condition in which dopamine cells slowly die causing movement and mood related disorders.

Does music lower dopamine? ›

Listening to the music you love will make your brain release more dopamine, study finds. A new study has found that dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning — plays a direct role in the reward experience induced by music.

What stimulates dopamine the most? ›

Getting enough sleep, exercising, listening to music, meditating, and spending time in the sun can all boost dopamine levels. Overall, a balanced diet and lifestyle can go a long way in increasing your body's natural production of dopamine and helping your brain function at its best.

What drugs cause low dopamine? ›

Dopamine Depleting Drugs
  • What Are Dopamine Depleting Drugs? Content. ...
  • Tetrabenazine (TBZ) Content. ...
  • Deutetrabenazine (DBZ) Content. ...
  • Valbenazine (VBZ) Content.

What supplements will increase dopamine levels? ›

Along with eating a balanced diet, many possible supplements may help boost dopamine levels, including probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, ginkgo and ginseng. This, in turn, could help improve brain function and mental health.

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