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Breaking the Dopamine Loop: Unveiling the Power of Dopamine Detox for a Balanced and Mindful Life

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Modern life is replete with stimuli—technology, concerns, media, consumerism, and endless choices.

It's easy to become ensnared in the allure of constant information and novelty. As a result, we involve in behaviors like mindless scrolling through social media, emotional eating, hyperconsumerism, and porn addiction.

This article will delve into dopamine detox, a social media trend designed to take a break from overstimulation to find balance again.

What is Dopamine? How Overstimulation Impacts Mental Health

Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain responsible for multiple bodily functions. It plays a role in making you feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation, often called the “feel-good” hormone.

When you do something and feel pleasure after it, what happens is that you have an increase in dopamine in your brain. This “reward” makes you want to do the same thing again to achieve the same result, the feeling of pleasure. That’s why dopamine also plays a role in generating addictions.

While dopamine is necessary for various functions, overstimulation or excessive engagement in dopamine-triggering activities can result in addiction, mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty focusing.

What is a Dopamine Detox?

A dopamine detox, or “dopamine fasting,” is an “evidence-based technique to manage addictive behaviors by restricting them to specific periods of time(1). The creator of this therapy is Dr. Cameron Sepah, who developed it based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Simply put, it means avoiding the stimuli that are problematic for you, the ones that make you engage in impulsive behavior.

Dr. Sepah mentions the six most common behavioral activities that trigger dopamine and could become behavioral addictions:

  1. Emotional eating

  2. Excessive internet usage and gaming

  3. Gambling and shopping

  4. Porn and masturbation

  5. Thrill and novelty-seeking

  6. Recreational drugs

The dopamine detox involves “fasting” or taking a break from these activities to become less dependent on the hits of dopamine that could end up in addiction.

Why Do You Need a Dopamine Detox?

Reflect on the last time you were alone with your thoughts. How often do you reach for your phone to check notifications? Do you engage in an activity you struggle to limit, like watching TV shows or online shopping?

You don’t need to have a diagnosed behavioral addiction to dopamine fast, nor is it just to reduce social media usage. It could involve any activity that causes pleasure, but you want to limit it because it harms your well-being.

Benefits of a Dopamine Detox

The goal of dopamine fasting is to reduce impulsive behavior that is problematic and prone to addiction. Unplugging from these behaviors may come with benefits, such as the potential for heightened focus and greater mental clarity(2).

Dr. Sepah indicates that the purpose of the fast is not necessarily to abstain from all stimuli, only the problematic behaviors. Instead, one can replace those activities with healthier alternatives(1), which come with their own benefits.

Moreover, by taking a break from addictive behaviors, like scrolling through social media, individuals can achieve a greater state of mindfulness(2). A 2021 study indicates this technique emphasizes a healthy lifestyle where pleasure is present but under control(3).

How to do a Dopamine Detox

1. Identify problematic behaviors

First, you must recognize the problematic behaviors interfering with your health or performance. Consider those that are hard to cut off or are causing you distress.

If you need help, check again the list of the six most common compulsive behaviors.

2. Fast from those behaviors

Avoid the behaviors you identified and make them hard to access, for example, by downloading an app that blocks social media on your smartphone.

Besides, you can engage in activities that are incompatible with the stimulus. For instance, if you want to avoid emotional eating, you could try sports.

The fast should last as much as you want it to be. Dr. Sepah suggests the following fasting schedules, and increase gradually:

  • 1-4 hours at the end of the day

  • 1 weekend day

  • 1 weekend per quarter

  • 1 week per year

3. Understand the behavior

The goal of CBT techniques is to understand the underlying causes of addiction. When the impulses arise, pay attention to them. Notice the thoughts and feelings you experience.


Dopamine fasting, or dopamine detox, is not as one may think, avoiding all stimuli or purging all dopamine in the brain since this is impossible.

It’s also not a meditation technique, monasticism, asceticism, or masochism—nor is it literal fasting.

Instead, it offers an excellent alternative for those who feel overstimulated and become dependent on dopamine-triggering activities.

In our fast-paced world, it's an invitation to rediscover balance, focusing on oneself and the things that truly matter.

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Jason De mel
Jason De mel
Nov 22, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

The concept of dopamine detox is very interesting, I wasn’t aware of it. As mentioned in the article, all this overstimulation can reduce concentration and indeed I feel it mentally and physically. I will definitely try it 💪

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