Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Reward Deficiency Syndrome

 Just a few days ago, I sang at a Mass celebrating the Feast of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, the parents of Mary, and the grandparents of Jesus.

Bishop Myron Cotta gave the homily, and in it he shared a memory of his grandmother joyfully singing as she did dishes at the kitchen sink. 

After the service, there was a brunch held for the Bishop at the parish hall, and I listened to a conversation at my table about the rise in the number of homeless people living in downtown San Francisco, and how this was changing the experience of visiting the city.

What made Bishop Cotta's grandmother so happy that doing dishes was a delight, and what is keeping the homeless people of San Francisco away from the ability to manage the necessities of daily life?

The Bishop saw the Holy Spirit in his grandmother's delight. Reward Deficiency Syndrome can explain the path to substance abuse that helps deliver homeless people to life on the street.

I have been working on this post for a few days now, and yesterday I was shocked to tune in to NPR and hear a Psychiatrist talking about Reward Deficiency Syndrome.  Here is my Amazon Associates link to the book: ADHD 2.0: ADHD 2.0 By Edward Hallowell M.D.

Maybe I should really be surprised that it has taken so long for anyone to write a book for the general public that describes the brain of the vulnerable individual in terms of RDS.

The article that opened my eyes was written by Kenneth Blum, John C. Gull, Eric R. Braverman, and David E. Cummings, and it was published in the March/April issue of American Scientist in 1996.

I am a carbohydrate addict. When I cut sugar and grains out of my way of eating in 2008, I was able to overcome the binging, drinking, and smoking that had been my coping mechanisms for decades. If I had known about RDS back in '96, I believe it would have been easier to achieve and maintain abstinence from my substances of addiction because I would have had a better understanding of why I kept reaching for them in spite of my desperate desire to live like a healthy person.

If you can't stop addictive behaviors like overeating, smoking, drinking, using drugs, gambling, or compulsively accessing social media, you may have the unique biological marker for RDS which is,

"A variant form of the gene for the dopamine D2 receptor, called the A1 allele." That is a quote from the article I mentioned above.

 If there is one thing I want you to take away from this blog post, it is enough curiosity to learn more about RDS.  Here is link to a free article that explains the syndrome: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7236426/

Now I would like to share the difference between coping with RDS by binging, smoking, and drinking, and addressing it with abstinence and the pursuit of healthy pleasures and happiness.

Think of Bishop Cotta's grandmother singing over a sink full of dishes. Singing, dancing, and acting give me enough joy to overcome the deficiency in my dopamine D2 receptor. On top of that, the prospect of spending time with my husband, my son, my friends, and co-workers can motivate me to take the positive actions that come naturally to people who enjoy normal dopamine response. 

Conscious awareness of the need to deliberately engage in wholesomely rewarding behaviors helps me function, and even thrive. I want you to claim the right to discover the activities that make you feel happy and whole. Playing sports for fun, participating in the arts, and enjoying hobbies can bring you the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction you need to flourish. If you need to go beyond the everyday pleasures of a report turned in or a well made bed, accept this reality and find ways to incorporate the things you need to do by rewarding their completion with the things you love to do.

When it comes to living with RDS, love really is the answer.