Sometimes cravings can be so strong! It’s not always easy to resist. In fact, some people seem to be so strong in controlling their cravings while others struggle and eventually give in. Why is that? Why do we crave in the first place? Some people have said the root of cravings are feelings of incompleteness. In other words, needing to fill a void. Others have said it is triggered by psychological or emotional pain, craving something to make you feel better.

Well listen, both are true. Giving into cravings deliver a satisfying “fill” which may relieve pain and bring happiness and completeness. The truth is, we’ve been doing this since day one as infants. As babies, we cry and crave for our mothers and her breast milk. We know we need something outside ourselves to feel whole, satisfied, comforted, and secure. So when we give into cravings at eat foods, drink alcohol, take drugs, we are reminded of these comforting “whole” feelings. As humans, we live with frequent desire.

Here’s a look at the science behind cravings. Our brains have an area of the brain that is responsible for all our motor plans, waiting and competing for us to act upon them. This is normal and helps to maintain psychological flexibility. So here comes dopamine. Dopamine suppresses our weaker plans and augments the strongest of plans in this part of the brain. What it’s doing is narrowing the competition and zooming in on one plan. Now our brain went from all sorts of potential actions to only one goal. Now our motivation is focused on that one thing only!

We can’t forget about cues. Cues have a way of triggering more dopamine which strengthens that narrowing process. And this is why we might get an extreme immediate craving for cookies upon smelling the fresh baked aroma. We also have internal cues as well; our memories can also trigger more dopamine.

Of course, the cravings get stronger as keep pumping out dopamine by giving into each craving. Our brain is literally being programmed to crave more and intensify the urgency. As we chase cravings, they continue to chase us, and now we’re trapped running in circles. So the more we give in, we are building the promise of relief.

It’s hard to resist cravings, and only gets harder the more we give in. Being aware of how cravings work helps us to understand what’s going on and lessens the spell it casts upon us.

Of course, our bodies physically can become dependent and addicted to substances which also trigger cravings. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, please contact a medical professional at Crownview Medical Group for advice and treatment.