What is the link between dopamine and mental health?

Many people experience days when it’s harder than usual to get up in the morning. However, for some this occurs on a daily basis. This can be attributed to reduced dopamine levels in the body, which can progress into mental health problems when left untreated.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for providing the feeling of motivation towards finishing a certain goal, as well as the feeling of accomplishment once the goal has been met. This is why it’s commonly referred to as the “motivation molecule” or the “reward chemical.” Basically, it’s one of the neurotransmitters responsible for the body feeling good and alive.

Unfortunately, there are some people who have a condition called dopamine deficiency. People who are experiencing this condition can have any of the following: insufficient dopamine production, reduced or broken dopamine receptors, or rapid dopamine breakdown. These can be caused by factors like poor diet, leading to insufficient precursor levels or suppression of dopamine activity. People who experience dopamine deficiency often exhibit symptoms, including fatigue, lack of motivation, insomnia, mood swings, memory loss, poor concentration, and poor socializing skills.

Dopamine deficiency has been linked to numerous mental disorders. One of these is depression. It was initially believed that depression is caused by serotonin deficiency since serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings like happiness and mental well-being. However, other studies suggest that dopamine deficiency can also cause depression. This is why anti-depressants that target selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are only effective in 40 percent of its users. When these SSRIs don’t work, drugs that fall under the norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitors class are usually prescribed. Depression caused by dopamine deficiency and serotonin deficiency can be differentiated from each other. Dopamine deficiency-induced depression is accompanied by feelings of lethargy and lack of enthusiasm while serotonin-dependent depression is characterized by anxiety.

Aside from depression, dopamine deficiency has also been implicated in Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disease occurs when the brain stops producing dopamine. One treatment used by patients with Parkinson’s is levodopa. Levodopa is compound that is naturally found in the body that can also be taken as a supplement. It serves as a chemical building block for dopamine conversion.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is another disease that is potentially linked to dopamine deficiency. Although this has not been proven, it is most likely true since dopamine is also needed to maintain focus. Medications for ADHD work by increasing dopamine release and subsequently reducing the rate of re-absorption.

In addition to these diseases, dopamine deficiency is also a potential cause for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Patients with these diseases exhibit symptoms such as aching muscles, difficulty in thinking clearly or concentrating, brain fog, and tremors.

Dopamine deficiency should not be treated lightly. When symptoms of dopamine deficiency arise, make sure to act on them immediately to prevent dopamine deficiency from progressing into mental health problems. (Related: Supercharge your brain with foods that stimulate dopamine production.)

Ways to boost dopamine levels

In order to avoid dopamine deficiency from progressing into these mental disorders, there are natural ways to boost dopamine levels. These include:

  • Changes in diet – For the body to produce dopamine, it needs to have pre-cursors, such as tyrosine and phenylalanine. These compounds can be found in foods like legumes, green leafy vegetables, chocolate, sesame and pumpkin seeds, apples, and avocados.
  • Exercise – Regular exercise can stimulate dopamine production, as well as increase the production of brain cells and prevent brain cells from aging.
  • Getting a massage – Massages can increase dopamine levels by 30 percent and reduce stress hormones like cortisol.
  • Taking supplements – As previously mentioned, dopamine production can decrease when there is a deficiency in the pre-cursors needed to make it. This can be solved by taking supplements for tyrosine, vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3.

Learn more about the effects of dopamine on mental health by visiting Mind.news today.

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