The Definitive Guide to Dopamine Fasting 2.0: The Hot Silicon Valley Trend

Dr. Cameron Sepah
The Startup
Published in
10 min readOct 28, 2019

Dopamine Fasting 2.0 has gone viral worldwide! This article has 140K+ views, and the international media from the ABC, The New York Times, BBC, and other prominent media have covered it across the US, UK, Australia, Finland, France, Japan, India, Russia, Turkey, and the Middle East. So what is all the rage about? Dopamine Fasting 2.0 is an evidence-based technique to manage addictive behaviors, by restricting them to specific periods of time, and practicing fasting from impulsively engaging in them, in order to regain behavioral flexibility. Unfortunately, there’s also been a lot of public misunderstanding due to media misportrayals, so let’s start with what it ISN’T.

Here’s what Dopamine Fasting 2.0 IS NOT:

- Reducing dopamine (the focus is on reducing impulsive BEHAVIOR)

- Avoiding all stimulation/pleasure (focuses only on specific behaviors that are problematic for you)

- Not talking/socializing/exercising (actually encourages values-aligned health behaviors)

- Rebranding meditation/asceticism/sabbath (doesn’t involve meditating or not working)

- Vacation (people treat vacations as times to indulge even more in bad habits)

- A “tech bro” or Silicon Valley-only trend (it’s done by both genders all over the world)

What’s the Science behind Dopamine Fasting 2.0?

Let’s first understand how impulsive behaviors become problematic or addictive. If you’ve ever studied behaviorism in a psychology course, you may recall that “classical conditioning” is a process which helps us learn that involves dopamine. To be clear, we ARE NOT fasting from dopamine itself, but from impulsive behaviors reinforced by it.

With enough training, unconditioned stimuli we’ve never seen before, like a red dot or notification on your smartphone, can become conditioned stimuli, because we learn to anticipate a reward (the negative reinforcement of alleviating our negative…

Dr. Cameron Sepah
The Startup

CEO, Maximus. Med School Professor. Executive Psychologist to CEOs & VCs.