What is dopamania?
Normally, dopamine is released by our brains to assure survival. It alerts us to rewards of eating, procreating, and self-protection. We can’t live without it. Once dopamine has performed its essential services, it recycles back into the cell that released it.
Abnormally high doses of dopamine, pumped into the body by sustained conflict, completion, and stress can cause long-term changes in the brain, which are likely lead to addiction. Such chronic exposure to dopamine causes tolerance to develop, meaning that ever larger levels of dopamine are needed to sustain the same high. The result is a dopamaniac!
Like any junkie, dopamaniacs will do whatever it takes to feed the addiction. They will lie, attack, stir up anger and division, agitate for controversy and conflict, generate fear and hatred; anything at all, to produce big fixes of high-octane dopamine.
Symptoms of dopamania:
• Lack of emotional control
• Euphoric breaks from reality
• Overconfidence and poor judgement
• Hyperactivity and talkativeness
You may never have heard of dopamania, but some of you may be thinking that this cluster of symptoms sounds familiar. In fact, it is the basis of the National Institute of Health’s check list diagnosing cocaine abuse.
Sky high on dopamine, the natural neurochemical that imitates cocaine in the brain, Donald Trump has no need of the street drug. His words and actions confirm that he suffers from all the symptoms of dopamania – my term for dopamine addiction.
Just a few of the dopamine-fueled sensationalist statements Mr. Trump has made:
• “The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.” Later he was corrected by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who commented that China is not actually a party to TPP.
• Declared that the United States is the most highly taxed nation in the world.
• Referred to Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists.
• Claimed that the U.S. government is planning to admit 250,000 Syrian refugees, when in fact, the State Department is planning to take in 10,000 refugees over the next year, and possibly a small additional number after that.
Dopamania in any leader initiates a dangerous “two-fer”. While dopamaniac politicians or fundamentalist religious figures get their fix by ginning up fear, anger, and anxiety, so do followers, swept up by his or her emotional tirades. They “share the needle.” Dopamine addicted constituents become fervently loyal to the pusher.
The excitement and euphoria of dopamine highs overrides respect for reality and facts. Floods of dopamine block signals to and from the most highly evolved regions of the brain; those areas naturally capable of analyzing long-term outcomes, appreciating nuanced information, working collaboratively, experiencing empathy, or managing emotions and behavior.
Rational thought is replaced by dopamine induced fight-or-flight, black-or-white reactions controlled by the most primitive parts of the brain. The executive control center, situated in the modern human brain (prefrontal cortex), gets hijacked and held captive by the dopamine addiction.
Donald Trump may role model dopamania in extremis, still, neuroscience finds that all of us are prone to dopamine addictions. Unmanaged, dopamine’s rewards of pleasure can push anyone beyond eating for survival to consuming the quantities of fat and sugar that lead us to obesity. Uncontrolled, dopamine rewards of sexual pleasure can take us beyond responsible relationships to damaging habits of media porn. Unaware, dopamine excitement can take players beyond leisure video gaming to aggressive, and even violent behavior.
There is an urgent need to understand the major role dopamine plays behind the scenes, pulling the strings, in our personal lives, as well as in negotiations and policy making in Washington. Positions, beliefs and behavior, unwittingly shaped by dopamine, undermine relationships, achievement, and stability.
Dopamine awareness ( tee shirts and bumper stickers “Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Dopamaniacs”?) and deliberate choices, could reduce this brain chemical’s dangerous potential to cause great misery and destruction. Curbing dopamine would point the U.S. and the world in a healthier, more stable and productive direction.
Thank you, Donald. Now, enough already!