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Things that make me go "ARGH!": A series
Part 1: Dopamine Addiction Panic
In the realm of things with which I cannot, the current “dopamine addiction” nonsense is right the fuck up there. The APA posted this article on LinkedIn:
I really cannot.
First, things feel good because they have some short or long-term benefits. Something feeling good does not automatically equal addiction. To qualify as an addiction, behavioral addiction must substantively harm the quality of life, relationships, and finances. Your kid’s enjoyment of your iPhone is not a heroine addiction in waiting. Can the internet be awful? Yes. Is it a drug? No. No, it is not.
Of course, kids need boundaries. They need sleep and food, and running around is good for them. Depending on age, they have little to moderate impulse control. We scaffold this for them so they can learn to do it themselves. But this biohacking bullshit has got to stop. Every kid is different. The boundaries and motivations you provide for them must match their personality and needs, not your paranoia. Biohacking is a scam.
I’m semi-co-parenting with my quarantine family. They have two kids, and I have one. Each kid is TOTALLY DIFFERENT. What makes them upset, what makes them happy, what they need when they are sad, what they like to do — it’s all different. Kids are different people with different needs. And your toddler will find something else to throw a tantrum about if you take away your iPhone and cookies - I guarantee it. They have tantrums to blow off extra energy and regulate their nervous systems. If you have a huge stake in what it is they are freaking out about, rather than what they need when they are freaking out, that is a you problem.
Second, you cannot raise a kid who is at peace with their body, has good impulse control, and cares about others if you constantly obsess over hacking their biochemistry to improve them. This all smacks of the same colonialist, white-supremacy bullshit that pathologizes sex, gender, eating, and existing in any body that isn’t white, male, young, and muscular. The construction of race was built around false ideas about white people having more self-control (rather than just some super culturally ingrained OCD) than other races because we could abstain from sex and starve ourselves into thinness (our ability to do so or not has nothing to do with race all of this was made up to justify slavery and indentured servitude).
Pathologizing eating and grafting moral qualities onto food can lead to weight cycling, which has long-term adverse effects on health, and eating disorders, which can kill you. Dieting is socially sanctioned starvation. Starvation is bad for you. Don’t fuck with your kids’ appetites, don’t judge their food choices, and don’t talk shit about your body or others’ bodies in front of them. And for fucks sake, don’t try to dopamine-detox them out of liking sweet things. Some people like sweet things. Some don’t. It’s not moral. Body size is not moral. Health is not moral. Most of this shit is genetic, but we pretend we have way more agency than we do and screw with our bodies and make them sicker, not healthier.
If you want more on this, I highly recommend the book Fat Talk by Virginia Sole-Smith. Without unpacking your attachment to it, you can’t raise kids free of diet culture’s madness. I also recommend following TheNutritionTea on Instagram. She’s a registered dietician who takes a weight-neutral approach to food and unpacks many colonialist assumptions about health.
Third. We naturally produce dopamine for all kinds of reasons. We can’t control that, nor should we try. I pare it back if I notice that too much TikTok is getting me down. I don’t freak out that I have a dopamine addiction and try to ban it. If I eat too much of something, I get a stomach ache, and then I don’t do that again because I don’t like feeling sick. If only we'd listen, our bodies tell us when something is out of whack. This illusion of ourselves as some master being puppeteering our bodies from the outside is alienating af. We need connection and community with others, not a perfectly obedient body (that will still age, sicken, and die). Every time these stupid trends invade the hive mind, it alienates us from ourselves, leaving no room to connect with others.
Do you know what the most significant determinant of longevity is? Social connection. Not diet, not weight, not exercise, not income. Multiple studies show that our ability to connect with others will most likely help us live longer. So maybe give the whole dopamine addiction thing a rest because it keeps us away from what we really need — each other.