Could Charitable Giving Become Addictive?

In case you missed it, the topic of charitable giving came up in Terry Gross’s recent interview with David Linden, author of The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning and Gambling Feel So Good.

The good news: Donating to charity activates the pleasure centers in people’s brains — those same dopamine-driven bits of tissue that make humans crave food, sex, gambling, alcohol, and more. And that’s true even if the giving is totally anonymous, without the benefit of other people knowing how generous you are.

The bad news: Unlike many of the other behaviors described in the book, Linden says heĀ  doesn’t know of anyone who has become addicted to giving to charity. But, he adds, “I suppose it’s theoretically possible.”