Silicon Valley takes on 'Dopamine Fasting 2.0' to battle bad habits, addiction

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Dopamine Fasting is a growing technique meant to help people manage addictive behavior, and ultimately achieve happiness.

A psychologist and UCSF professor, Dr. Cameron Sepah found any overstimulation could eventually make us less sensitive to dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a part in controlling our emotional responses.

"Dopamine Fasting is essentially an evidence-based technique that comes out of behavioral therapy," Sepah explained. "To basically help people manage problematic or addictive behaviors by taking time off the things that are problematic to them- at the end of every day, every week, every quarter and every year."

He explained, we live in an "always on" culture here in the Bay Area.

Always on our phones, always on social media, always on our way to some event. But when those behaviors start to become addictive or problematic Sepah says it could be time for a time out.

"Everyone knows that drugs or substances can be easily abused," he said. "But what's underappreciated are what are called the 'behavioral addictions.'"

Behavioral addictions can include internet gaming, porn and masturbation, gambling, shopping, and even thrill-seeking.

"Those are common categories," Sepah added. "People can have problematic relationships with these behaviors to the point of potentially being addictive."

Sepah explained the technique of Dopamine Fasting allows the mind and body to restore itself.

"What's practical, and what I find to be helpful in my clinical experience is to take about one to four hours at the end of every day," he said.

Sepah emphasized people don't need to withdraw from all behaviors. "In fact, if you don't have a problematic relationship with any of these things, you may not need Dopamine Fasting at all."

Devices, technology and much more has changed over the years. In that time, the technique and approach to treatment has shifted as well.

"Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been around for decades, and is basically being applied to new forms," Sepah told ABC7 news.

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On Friday, ABC7 News took to the streets of San Francisco.

Resident Susan Battle admitted her cellphone and social media take up more time than she would like to admit.

Alexander Zlatev, 13, said he's gotten into trouble at school for his addiction to his computer.

But, when does your behavior actually constitute a problem?

Sepah said there are a few questions to consider:

Is your behavior distressing?

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ls it getting in the way of your ability to do what you're supposed to do?

And does it have an addictive quality?

This could apply to many compulsive behaviors keeping you from carrying on.

Sepah's research found Silicon Valley workers are now working to manage the chaos through fasting. Really taking time to allow our brains to recover and restore itself from any overstimulation.

"I find myself decompressing away from those from time to time just to find a healthier outlet instead of sitting around on a computer and finding everybody's good news and bad news," Battle told ABC7 News.

Read Dr. Sepah's entire publication here.

"Sometimes, we're not really fully aware how engaging in compulsive behaviors affects or depresses our mood," he added. "So when we abstain from these things, especially for a longer period of time, we might start to notice that we might feel better."
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