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I. Finding Happiness in Youth

Young Brain and Addictions

Understanding Addiction: Eating, Drinking and Hidden Desire for Affections  Written by Dr. Trudy Hu, 2/12/2015


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Spring Season: Love is in the Air

Spring is just around the corner.  After the hibernation in the winter season, the hidden life is about to sprout with vibrant enthusiasm. The hidden drive behind the robust growth is the love and nutrients from the mother nature.  All the plants are budding, presenting the most attractive flowers to attract bees and other mediums for reproduction. 

Love is also the foundation of human development.  Mother’s love is the lifeline for a child’s overall health and happiness.  Romantic love is the fuel for passion among couples and human’s biological need for procreation. Love is an abstract concept and intangible feelings which is hard to grasp.  However, eating, drinking, shopping, and affection are basic human needs in modern era.  They are also hand-on actions which elicit tangible excitement and sensations.  More importantly, it can be reproduced, experimented, and positively reinforced through daily rituals by yourself and your brain. 

Youth and Young Adults’ Brain

When children reach puberty, the patterns of secreting sex hormones change.  That is, testosterone masculinizing and defeminizing neural circuits in males, and the absence of testosterone and increasing estrogen to feminize neural circuits in females.  The hormonal changes also entail social, behavioral, sensory, attentional, motivational, and reward-related changes, too.

During puberty, the brain is becoming more sexual which means teenager’s brain becomes more sensitive to attractive visual, sensory stimulation, attention-seeking and  reward-hunting system will be congruently reinforced to create and increase the odds of reproductive opportunities and defeat potential competitors.

Young adult’s brain coordinates visual cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus to collect pleasant sensory, emotional and memory responses (look, smell, positive image, past memories of the loved ones) and forward the signals to hypothalamus which connects nervous system and endocrine system via pituitary gland.  Once the brain approves the signals and merits a reward, it will release pleasure-and-soothing brain chemicals which reinforce the repetition of the pleasure-producing effects and behavioral patterns.  In the puberty period, adrenal cortex (also release stress hormone) increases its secretion of androgens (male hormone or precursor of estrogen) which is responsible for the appropriate sexual identity and further paves the way for the development of gender roles.

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Sexy Brain Feedback Loop: 

  • attractive information is collecting through senses
  • positive image or pleasant memory is formed 
  • sending signals to hypothalamus
  • release pleasurable and soothing chemicals
  • reinforce more masculine competitive behavior for boys or more feminine attractive behavior for girls
  • repeat the same feedback loop                      

Nevertheless, it is also a critical time for teenagers to be academically, cognitively, and vocationally competitive in the highly industrialized and computerized environments which is full of convenient materials/substance supplies and stress reduction mechanisms.  The coping mechanisms include primitive biological needs, such as eating, drinking, affection, touching, and sexual needs. 

The combination of middle-age parents and pre-teen and teenage children is the basic ingredients for perfect family storms when both generations are facing turbulent challenges in their life stages.  It becomes a fertile ground to develop addictive behaviors due to parental discord, divorce, neglect or abandonment.  Addictive behavior provides an escape as well as a convenient way to experience pleasurable sensation.    

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Addiction: A Fast Lane to Feeling Good (Pleasure-Producing Substances or Objects)

Youth and young adults are more susceptible to the pleasure seeking behaviors without the screening control of a mature brain in differentiating the liability and validity of the images/products/information.  The young brain is not fully developed in impulse control, so it is not capable of making sound decisions, or executing well-planned action and judgment. 

Without much time for healthy social and dating activities, young people’s sexual brain circuits will be rerouted to reinforce the competition in academic and career world or addictions resulting in releasing more androgen which enhances rational, logical and unemotional functions of the brain.  Pleasure-producing repetitive behavior releases brain chemicals and the chemicals elicit desirable sensations.  Drinking alcohol, using drugs, internet addiction or even eating comfort foods can stimulate pleasure chemicals.  Some adults choose addictive behavior to reduce stress and the feedback loop is very similar.  After months and years of practice, pleasure-seeking, stress-reduction behavior, or addictions generate more pleasure hormone secretion but it also causes dysfunctions of metabolism, immunity, inflammation, and diseases in the long run.  In addition to addiction, the odds of creating confusing and dismantled gender roles for the youth become high.  Please read more addicted brain for reference.

Addictive Brain Feedback Loop:

  • bypass sensory information collection
  • chemical compound (food, alcohol, drug) or electrical stimulation (gaming, porn, sex) activates brain chemical releasing  
  • pleasurable and soothing sensation is induced
  • reinforce more pleasure-seeking action for boys or more attention/affection-seeking desire for girls
  • repeat the same feedback loop 
  • declined attention and motivation in normal daily routines as well as gender appropriate behavioral patterns                   

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Healthy Desires for Affection (Love, Friendship, Companionship, and Partnership)

There is no doubt that human brain is the sexiest organ since puberty and naturally attracted by sexually appealing people, objects, or chemical substance.  The word, sex, is associated with highly charged attention, attraction or taboo for different individuals in various cultures.  However, love and sex can be interpreted in the eyes of the beholders under various cultural lenses. 

Youth and young adults, who have a tendency to become addicted, indicate that they have much higher intelligence, creativity

and stamina.  Young growing brain of high caliber desires higher dosage of affection, attention, and positive reinforcement to 

develop identity which is more like a road map for the next challenging unknown journey into the adulthood.  Their brain power

consumption becomes high, and the need for stimulation and recharging becomes frequent like iPhone and iPad, so is the desire

for security and reassurance from parental figures, peer groups, and surrounding communities (i.e., schools, clubs, churches, 

sport teams). 

Their talents and addiction should be understood, protected, and well guided for more unlimited future development. 

Taking Care of Your Loved Ones’ Brain Health Today!

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  "It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them. "             Benjamin Franklin

More Wisdom + Life, please go to www.DrTrudy.com

More Information: Click on Sexy Brain and the definition of Love and Sex.