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At What Point Does Pleasure Become Psychopathic?

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There has been plenty of attention given to various tragedies of senseless murders.  What makes these psychopaths tick?  For that matter, why do criminals do what they do when they must know they will eventually be caught?  How can such individuals care so little about others and have no fear or remorse related to their actions?  A rather surprising answer comes from research done at Vanderbilt University.

The researchers found that the dopamine reward system was significantly altered.  Remember, the dopamine reward system is key to survival of the human species.  All beneficial activities required for survival are linked to pleasure as a reward - specifically so that you will do them (eating and sex being two examples).  In psychopaths, the idea of the reward excessively lights up dopamine activity in the brain, leading to impulsive-antisocial behavior at any cost.  The problem is, this issue is sitting on top of the brain circuitry relating to food acquisition.  What is the difference between a psychopath's desire to get a reward and the somewhat normal increase of salivation in anticipation of a desirable meal?

As I pointed out in my recent article The Addictive Nature of Compulsive Eating adverse dopamine brain wiring is similar in excessive food consumption and drug addiction.  In this research we see that drug addiction circuitry and psychopathic circuitry are similar.  In the case of over-eating individuals they are perfectly willing to commit harm to themselves.  Powered by the same dopamine brain alterations, psychopaths are willing to commit harm to others.  Psychopathic behavior is commonly associated with a history of addictive drug and alcohol abuse.

This tends to indicate that the difference between the compulsive over-eater and the psychopath is the degree of malfunction in the same dopamine circuitry.  If the baseline level of dopamine function is set at a level of uncomfortable pain (meaning a lack of basic pleasure in one's life or an inability to feel pleasure based on normal fun activities), then a fix is needed to enable pleasure that rises above the pain.  This is clearly how addiction to food works as well as addiction to drugs.

Especially with drugs the very nerve circuits that are being stimulated to experience pleasure are being damaged at the same time.  This creates horrendously malfunctioning dopamine function.  The desire to get a reward is so fundamental to survival that satisfying it is done without regard for consequences when the baseline level of pain is great.

It is interesting that most psychopathic murderers have been on anti-depressant and other brain medications prior to their violent outbursts.  Such drugs are like credit cards on the nervous system and hide the severity of a lack of neurotransmitter function.  Run out of serotonin and you commit suicide.  Run out of dopamine and you commit mayhem.  Medicating anti-social people is extremely dangerous and may aggravate their problems.

Could it be that addiction to food is pushing large numbers of young people in the direction of becoming drug addicts and eventually psychopaths?  Maybe the makers and purveyors of junk food are responsible, at least in part, for far more than the obesity epidemic.



By Byron J. Richards Founder/Director of Wellness Resources, Inc.
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.

Author: Founder/Director of Wellness Resources, Inc.

Biography: Board-Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a world renowned natural health expert. Richards is the first to explain the relevance of leptin and its link to solving obesity.

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