What is modern stress?


Modern stress, as discussed by Shane Parrish and Dr. Anna Lembke, is defined as any deviation from homeostasis or our neutral baseline position. It can be triggered by either too much pleasure or pain, leading to an elevated release of stress hormones like adrenaline. In our contemporary environment, this stress is often exacerbated by overabundance rather than scarcity. Constant stimulation from everyday conveniences and entertainments like smartphones, caffeine, and digital media push our pleasure-pain balance out of alignment, causing psychological and physiological stress responses.

Additionally, modern stress is intricately linked with social issues. Poor people living in affluent societies face a peculiar stress paradox by having access to cheap, highly potent sources of dopamine while also coping with problems like poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. These conditions create a perfect storm for addiction and other stress-related disorders. Severe forms of pain, whether physical or psychological, can trigger intense dopamine releases, mirroring addictive drug effects and potentially leading to compulsive behaviors or relapse in recovery contexts 1.

Modern Stress

Anna explains that the constant stimulation and overabundance in modern life is a unique and unprecedented source of stress. Poor people living in rich nations are the most vulnerable to addiction due to access to highly potent, cheap forms of dopamine. Severe pain can trigger a compulsive, drug-seeking response due to the huge dopamine release it causes.

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The Science of Addiction | Dr. Anna Lembke | Knowledge Project 159