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Could You Be Addicted to TikTok? Here's What It Means to Have 'TikTok Brain'

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Apr. 4 2022, Published 2:19 p.m. ET

Let's be honest — we're all at least a little guilty of spending too much time on TikTok. Those 15-second clips are so quick to consume and move on from. Sometimes hours can go by before we realize how long we have spent on the app. For some, it's just a fun way to pass the time, but for others, things are more complicated.

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If you've ever heard the term "TikTok Brain" you might be wondering what exactly that means. It turns out that the app may have a bigger hold on us than we might realize, and there's a scientific reason for it.

What is TikTok Brain?

In 2020, Forbes called TikTok "digital crack cocaine for your brain" and that description isn't far from the truth. It states that, scientifically speaking, the app is so successful because it acts like a drug our brains keep craving. "When you’re scrolling ... sometimes you see a photo or something that’s delightful and it catches your attention," said USC professor and author Dr. Julie Albright.

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TikTok
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"And you get that little dopamine hit ... in the pleasure center of the brain. So you want to keep scrolling," she continued. TikTok Brain is the idea that your brain becomes so used to the hit of dopamine, it turns to the app to keep getting it.

According to Web MD, dopamine is a chemical in our brains that sends messages between nerve cells. It helps us think and plan things, but also signals the brain that we are happy.

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Altogether, this means that when we watch a TikTok, dopamine is released, telling our brains that we like what we're doing. Our brains then tell us that we should keep watching videos if we want to keep experiencing this happiness. But, Web MD also points out that brains can have too much dopamine in our systems. This is not only linked to mental health disorders but also to addiction.

Is TikTok brain real?

Because TikTok Brain isn't any kind of official diagnosis, it's only as real as we make it. The term is being used as a way to describe a particular behavior. Using the phrase can be considered a good thing because others can identify with it.

If there's a term for things like this, that typically means that multiple people are dealing with it. That can help people feel like they aren't alone and can reach out to each other for help.

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If anything, the addictive qualities associated with TikTok brain are real. According to The BBC, something can be called addicting if it becomes the most important thing or aspect of someone's life or if that thing is used to improve someone's mood so they feel the need to do it more often.

Now, none of this means that you're an addict. The BBC states that liking something excessively isn't the same thing as an addiction. But it's possible that doing things without acknowledging their impact on you can become an issue later on. These "behavioral addictions" can be just as dangerous as drugs if left unchecked.

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