The Dopamine Loop: Sex and Texting

Texting is something that most of us put a whole lot of energy into- some of us put a whole lot more into texting than others. The world has changed, and in the last ten years technology has become so advanced that we no longer want to pick up the phone to call someone or even have a physical conversation with them because texting is just easier. Is it actually easier, or are we just addicted? The answer is- both.

There is a no real science behind the fact that texting is simply easier, however, there is some scientific reasoning behind the thought that we are susceptible at becoming addicted to texting. So, what is it that makes us addicted?

Dopamine

Dopamine exists in the brain and is vital for many of the brain’s functions, including moving, thinking, moods, sleeping and motivation. When we are on our mobile devices texting, the ‘seek and reward’ dopamine is triggered. Interestingly enough, the immediate gratification generated by the act of texting may be altering the dopamine in our brain. The science behind this is both interesting and somewhat disturbing. Mobile phones and texting may render us vulnerable to being biochemically addicted, and in turn over time, may create an imbalance in the brain’s chemistry.

Research suggests that dopamine drives the pleasure-seeking structures of the brain, but more recent research shows that dopamine causes us to seek and desire more information, as well as controlling our motivation, it can also affect our level of mental stimulation or arousal.

Sex and Texting

Did you know that the biggest release of dopamine is during sex, and more specifically during orgasm? The endorphins released at this point in time comes from not only the pleasure center of the brain, but also the ‘seek and reward’ center of our brains. Sound familiar? Yes, you guessed it. Mobile phone manufacturers have created an item that on average we touch 2,617 times per day with the purpose of giving us the same mental stimulation as an orgasm. Is it any wonder we are addicted?

Texting delivers the exact same dopamine for desire of a climax. When texting, however, the climax is the response to a text message, or a series of text messages. The more in depth the conversation gets during texting, the higher the desire for climax becomes. This is called a dopamine loop.

‘Seek’ and ‘Reward’

Your ‘seek’ desire is fulfilled every time you send a text, and the ‘reward’ is receiving a response.
Another interesting fact about dopamine stimulation is that unpredictability increases your dopamine levels. As an example, when you first meet someone you are either physically attracted to or mentally stimulated by, during your initial conversations, your dopamine levels increase because of the unpredictability. Stimulating conversation is an excellent way to increase your dopamine levels, and the unpredictability of a stimulating conversation with a person you have never met before can increase that even more. The unpredictability of text messages work in a similar way to this. Unpredictability is the driver of this dopamine increase, which makes you want more and more of it.

Psychology has a theory on classical conditioning, which demonstrates that we can become conditioned to respond to visual or audible cues for reward, and as our smartphones utilize these things with every call, message or app update we get it adds to the addictive effect. Combine this with added dopamine levels… and the answer is at your fingertips.