Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone. As a neurotransmitter, it transmits nerve signals across a synapse. And like other hormones, dopamine helps send messages throughout the body. This means that it plays a key role in the brain’s ability to send certain nerve signals. In this article, we shall discuss the most common low dopamine symptoms.
Dopamine plays an important role in numerous functions, including motivation, reward, learning, movement, memory, and more. Dopamine deficiency is linked to numerous ailments, including Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, and addiction. However, dopamine deficiency itself is not a medical diagnosis. Furthermore, there is no evidence that supplements that promise to increase dopamine levels offer any measurable benefit.
Low dopamine symptoms can cause a number of problems, including changes in mood, memory, sleep, and social behavior. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical, that plays the important role of sending signals from the brain to the body. It is produced naturally in different key sections of the brain and is important for functions such as motor skills, cognitive abilities, and reproduction.
This neurotransmitter spikes in anticipation of something important which is about to happen, plays key roles in the body’s reward and motivation system, and also affects memory. Dopamine performs these important functions despite making up only a small percentage—less than one percent —of the brain’s neurons.
In the right amount, this neurotransmitter is crucial for brain function, but when this amount is lowered beyond a prescribed point, it can just as equally have an unintended consequence on the body.
Table of Contents
- 1 Low Dopamine Symptoms
- 2 Causes of Low Dopamine
- 3 Conditions Linked to Low Dopamine
- 4 How to Treat Low Dopamine Symptoms
What happens if you have too little dopamine?
Dopamine deficiency has been linked to neurodegenerative conditions in the body. If you have symptoms of low dopamine levels, you might feel:
- Anxious or moody
- Depressed or hopeless
- Indifferent about the things you used to enjoy
- Unable to concentrate
- Unable to sleep
- Uninterested in sex
To understand the effects of low dopamine, we’ll first examine the signs and causes of this condition. Then, we’ll learn about the conditions most commonly linked to dopamine deficiency for a keener understanding of its effects. Finally, we’ll share how you can maintain your body’s production of this important neurotransmitter.
Low Dopamine Symptoms
With links to conditions like schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease, dopamine deficiency can exhibit similar traits to these conditions. These traits include:
- Chronic back pain
- Persistent constipation
- Weight fluctuations
- Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
- Sleep disorders
- Attention difficulties
- Reduced sex drive
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Low moods
Causes of Low Dopamine
A number of factors may be responsible for reduced dopamine in the body. These include sleep deprivation, obesity, drug abuse, saturated fat, and stress. Here’s a closer look at each.
Besides your morning coffee, dopamine is one of the reasons you feel refreshed and alert most mornings. This wakefulness is promoted by dopamine receptors, in particular the D2 receptor. These receptors help to mediate the functions of dopamine in the body.
However, sleep deprivation can reduce the number of D2 receptors in important parts of the brain. Where this happens, the transmission and production of dopamine is impacted.
In fact, with a condition like Parkinson’s disease which sustains low dopamine levels, most people feel excessive daytime sleepiness.
Obesity has been linked to a number of health conditions, but one less known effect is the role it plays in downregulating or reducing the amount of dopamine in the brain.
Like the results of sleep deprivation, obesity can lead to a reduction in D2 receptors in the brain. This becomes especially obvious when comparisons are made with the number of receptors in people who are not obese.
During early usage, certain drugs may contribute to an increase in dopamine. Cocaine is one drug that has been known to produce euphoria and increased dopamine levels following usage.
However, long-term use of these drugs is certain to offer diminishing returns, especially where dopamine production is concerned.
Because of the sustained increase in dopamine production following drug use, the brain intervenes to reduce the number of dopamine receptors available.
When you have fried chicken, buttered bread, chocolate, and other foods high in saturated fats, your brain understandably lights up with dopamine at all the pleasure you’re receiving from these foods.
However, these foods only produce short-term enjoyment. Over time, persistently observing a high-fat diet disrupts central nervous system functioning, where dopamine is produced. When it is disrupted, this can lead to a dopamine deficit.
There are very few things stress is good for, and maintaining optimal dopamine levels isn’t one of them. When you are constantly exposed to stressors like financial difficulty, relationship troubles, workplace stress, and more, this can affect your body’s production of dopamine. Over time, this may also lead to a deficiency of the neurotransmitter in the body.
Conditions Linked to Low Dopamine
There are a number of conditions that can lead to low dopamine symptoms. Some of these include the following:
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder is one of the most severe mental and behavioral disorders. It is characterized by prolonged depressive moods or a lack of interest in activities that would ordinarily be appealing. This loss of interest is commonly referred to as anhedonia.
However, beyond a loss of interest, anhedonia is also related to a disruption in the mind’s reward process. The usual anticipation, motivation, and decision-making stages involved in the reward system are greatly affected. This change has been linked to dysfunctions in the dopamine system.
Decreased levels of dopamine have been associated with major depressive disorders.
This disorder is linked with an abnormal interpretation of reality. Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition that can affect a person’s ability to think, act, or express themselves.
Typically diagnosable by symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and abnormal physical gaits, these signs may also be attributed to an imbalance of dopamine in the body.
Lower levels of dopamine have been linked to other signs such as anhedonia, an inability to complete tasks, and demotivation to engage in social interactions.
Parkinson’s is a disorder of the nervous system. It is identifiable by tremors which may begin as barely noticeable, before progressing into obvious quivers, muscle stiffness, or delayed movement. This disorder may also cause problems with balance during motion.
Parkinson’s disease is the result of a number of factors, one of which is a reduction in the production of dopamine in the brain. When there is a dopamine deficit, this can cause distinct movement difficulties associated with this condition.
How to Treat Low Dopamine Symptoms
Low dopamine levels can produce negative reactions throughout the body. Some things that you can do to fix low dopamine include getting regular exercise, eating foods that support dopamine production, consuming probiotics, and listening to music
Working up a sweat by running, swimming, dancing, or other forms of movement, can help with increasing dopamine levels in the body. Studies carried out on animals have shown that certain portions of the brain are flushed with dopamine during physical activity. It is why exercising may sometimes produce a high.
Your body’s supply of dopamine may be supported by external sources. Natural sources such as bananas, plantain, and avocados have been found to contain high levels of dopamine. Apples, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes have also been recognized as dopamine sources. Proteins are also notable components in the dopamine production process.
Probiotics may get more notice for promoting gut health, but this bacteria is not only an important part of the body’s microbiome, it may also be useful for the production of dopamine and other neurotransmitters.
It’s not 100% certain how music affects the brain, but there’s a reason why certain songs give you chills, make you mellow, and very notably, have the power to invigorate you while listening.
The last potential may be due to the ability of music to stimulate dopamine production in the brain. This leaves you with feelings of pleasure and excitement when listening to music, and can help to increase dwindling dopamine levels.
In summary, in the right amount, dopamine can give you feelings of pleasure, excitement, and motivation when carrying out activities. Things start to go south, however, when the body runs low on this neurotransmitter. This can happen because of a genetic predisposition, obesity, stress, and other causes.
When this happens, it isn’t uncommon for you to experience persistent tiredness, constipation, poor moods, sleep disorders, and other negative reactions.
Thankfully, the body’s dopamine levels can be increased using the right diet that consists of fruits like bananas, probiotics, as well as protein. You can also get your dopamine fix by listening to music and routinely engaging in exercise.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.