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Positive Feedback Loops: What Are They and How Do They Affect Us?

You may have heard the term “Positive Feedback Loop” in various contexts but not know its meaning. Positive Feedback Loops are mechanisms that exist within nature, our bodies, our minds, and the machines that are built. They are processes by which change in one direction causes more change in the same direction. 

For example, if you have been to a concert, one of these mechanisms may have played out right in front of you. When a singer’s voice enters their microphone, it is sent to a speaker, which amplifies the sound. Sometimes the sound coming out of the speaker then makes its way back into the microphone and is again amplified. If this happens too often, it can create an excruciating and loud noise that can even blow out the speaker. 

Learning about which feedback loops exist and their role in your lives can be valuable in understanding patterns that could decide our health and future. 

Feedback Loops and Substances

A common positive feedback loop that may occur in your life is dependence on a substance. For example, if you have a few alcoholic drinks in a short amount of time, your blood alcohol level rises rapidly. While this level is on the rise, it can be a pleasurable rush. 

Unfortunately, as soon as your blood alcohol level stops rising, it begins to plateau and then decreases. The pleasurable sensations you were just feeling start to decay, and your body produces toxins from the alcohol already in your system. At this moment, alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur, commonly known as a hangover. 

This process can become very dangerous if you rationalize that you can prevent these symptoms in the short term by drinking more. Drinking can then spiral out of control fast. However, all you are doing is pushing the painful withdrawal into the future. This same process also applies to many other addictive substances.

While going through challenging times, you may not think about the future, especially when the present moment is so difficult. It can happen to anyone, including you. That is why it is essential to keep these dangers in mind when going through struggles in life. The longer the feedback loop goes on, the worse things may get. If you can muster the strength to break the cycle, your future self will thank you for it.      

Feedback Loops and Mental Health 

Depression is a struggle that millions of Americans deal with every year. According to a study on major depression, in 2017 alone, it is estimated that 17.3 million adults struggled with major depressive episodes. Depression can make you lose interest in things you enjoy and bring feelings of intense sadness. These feelings combined can make connecting with others difficult. You may feel that you do not deserve to connect with others or feel trapped in your mind and hindered by your struggles. 

The positive feedback loop associated with depression can begin if you isolate or cut yourself off from others. Humans are social creatures, and when you distance ourselves from people, especially those you love, it can create more feelings of sadness and worsen depression. Even though it was your depression that made you feel distant from others in the first place, it has the potential to become a dangerous feedback loop if left unchecked. 

Many people go through depressive episodes every year, but that does not make your battles less important. If you are feeling down, it can be valuable to reach out to others for help, whether those people are those you love, professionals, or both. 

How to Use Positive Feedback Loops 

Not all positive feedback loops are harmful. For example, exercise is a healthy and valuable positive feedback loop. There is an astounding number of benefits you can reap from exercise, such as improved mood, better sleep quality, and lower risk of heart disease. It can even help people quit smoking. 

Starting an exercise routine can be difficult at first, but it becomes easier and easier as you begin to notice the positives. You may work out and then see a change in your mood or health you enjoy, which makes you want to work out more. Thus, you have created a positive feedback loop that is pushing you towards success. 

Engaging in a creative hobby such as music, art, or writing can also help you create beneficial positive feedback loops. A common theme with feedback loops that can help you is that they may start as a challenge, but the farther you go, the more enjoyable they become. When you start painting, it may be challenging, and you may have a lot to learn. However, once you see improvement and feel proud of what you are creating, it can be a wonderful experience. 

Positive feedback loops are mechanisms that can badly hurt you or pave the path to success. It is essential to keep in mind the dangers they can pose and how bad habits can form. It is also equally important to learn how you can develop positive habits through these same processes. Whether you are dealing with a substance use disorder or a mental health disorder, it is crucial to seek help whenever possible. Your struggles can be profoundly personal, but that does not mean you have to go through them alone. Here at Everlast Recovery Centers, we can offer you help with breaking the cycles that you feel trapped in. Our facilities located in gorgeous southern California treat substance use disorders and mental health disorders such as depression. We are here to help you become the best version of yourself. Contact us today at (866) 338-6925 to begin your path to getting the help you need. 

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