Living With Reward Deficiency Syndrome

How Learning about Reward Deficiency Syndrome can help manage the craving for “More.”

I’m greedy.

“I want it now!” Could Veruka have been dealing with Reward Deficiency Syndrome?

Symptoms of RDS?

Since childhood I’ve been aware that I want all the praise, prizes, and pleasure I can get. I used to drive my older siblings crazy trying to the center of attention, and by the fifth grade I realized that if I didn’t find a way to harness my impulses, I was going to be sick, sad, and alone.

By the time I was ten, I was definitely one of the chubbier kids in my class, and for the first time, I was starting to fall behind in math. I knew that I should stop sneaking snacks and do my homework, but the part of my psyche that could keep me on a positive path wasn’t strong enough to get me to choose, “Good over greed.”

Gimme More? I can relate.

Ms. Spears accomplishes great things as a performer, in spite of personal challenges. I manage RDS by singing and dancing every day.

By this age, I had already been put on a calorie counting diet by my Pediatrician, and my report cards were coming back with the observation,

“Cathy isn’t performing up to her potential.”

It wasn’t until five years ago that I discovered the physical condition underlying my craving for exceptional pleasure, and my aversion to sensible chores.

What Is RDS?

I read an article in Science Direct Magazine that introduced me to Reward Deficiency Syndrome.

What is reward deficiency syndrome? The definition below is from Pub Med Central.

1.1. Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)

Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) involves dopamine resistance, a form of sensory deprivation of the brain’s reward or pleasure mechanisms. The syndrome occurs because of an individual’s inability to derive reward from ordinary, everyday activities. Reward deficiency can be relatively mild or severe, and addiction is a manifestation of RDS. The subject of extensive peer review RDS is a disorder of the neurochemistry of the brain and affects over one-third of the US population. Dopamine is a principal component of brain function and RDS. The healthy function of molecular neuroanatomy ultimately results in the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which is the key to feelings of well-being, motivation and happiness.

You can read the entire article here:

What can help people who suspect they have Reward Deficiency Syndrome?

Although Dr. Kenneth Blum and other scientists are pursuing treatment for RDS at the genetic level, I have been managing my dopamine response with lifestyle changes for 15 years now.

On the left: before dropping sugar and lifting weights. On the right: after and ever since 2008.

By dropping my sugar consumption, lifting weights, and replacing snacking with dancing, singing, and playing, I was able to improve my insulin and dopamine sensitivity. My three day sugar detox is here:

Going forward, I will be working to raise awareness of RDS. I hope to promote understanding, compassion, and hope that RDS can be managed with positive nutrition and training, and by deliberately pursuing actions that bring more happiness with less harm to the individual and their community.

The question to anyone who suspects they may be living with RDS is, “What do you love more than the substances and behaviors that are doing you harm?” By gathering the answers to this question, we can start improving lives now.


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