How too much pleasure can cause you pain

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Dopamine isn’t the only neurotransmitter involved in reward processing, but most neuroscientists agree it’s among the most important. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Dopamine isn’t the only neurotransmitter involved in reward processing, but most neuroscientists agree it’s among the most important. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

It's instinctive for human beings to want pleasure and avoid pain. We are programmed to do so – it dates back to a time when people needed to find food and shelter every day or risk death.

But we don’t live in that world anymore. In today’s world, these basic needs are often readily available. In fact, we’ve transformed our world from a place of scarcity to a place of overwhelming abundance: not only of food, but of all sorts of other things that stimulate our pleasure centre – shopping, news, gaming, gambling, texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, YouTubing, tweeting, alcohol . . .

This overabundance changes things, says psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr Anna Lembke, and understanding the relationship between pleasure and pain has become essential for a life well lived.

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