Signs You Could Have Low Levels Of Dopamine

Many of the activities we engage in on a daily basis trigger spikes of dopamine in our brains without us even realizing it. According to Harvard Health Publishing, actions that the brain finds rewarding release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in various functions such as learning, attention, and mood regulation. Movement, heart rate, kidney function, and other physical processes are also influenced by this neurotransmitter. Being a chemical messenger, dopamine is necessary for communication between neurons in the brain.

When dopamine is released, the sensation of pleasure it produces can motivate people to repeat the behavior that made them feel satisfied. There are times when this can be beneficial and times when it can be detrimental. On one hand, dopamine is released during exercise, which could encourage someone to exercise more often because the brain finds the activity rewarding. However, a dark side of this reward system dynamic is that the brain can become dependent on illicit drugs because of a surge of dopamine when taking a substance, which makes it more difficult for the body to produce dopamine naturally. 

There are some health problems associated with low dopamine levels in the brain that may surprise you. Therefore, it can be helpful to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of dopamine deficiency. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

What are symptoms of dopamine deficiency?

Because neural communication in the brain is an invisible phenomenon, it's not always easy to recognize if you have lower-than-average levels of dopamine. However, your body may send you discreet signals that it needs more of the neurotransmitter.

Someone with lower levels of dopamine may experience behavioral changes, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic. For example, they could feel fatigued and become less motivated to engage in activities that they once enjoyed. Low levels of dopamine can also contribute to changes in mood. Individuals with a dopamine deficiency might be impulsive, angry, or anxious, and could have low self-esteem.

It's believed that some medical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, are associated with low levels of dopamine. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, research suggests that patients who have lost 80% or more of the dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra (a part of the brain that controls movement) can display symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Dopamine works with other neurotransmitters in the brain to facilitate movement, so a lack of dopamine could lead to tremors in the hands, arms, legs, and jaw. Slow mobility may also be observed in someone with a dopamine deficiency, as well as problems with balance and coordination.

It has been suggested that a lack of dopamine is linked to symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as difficulties with attention, memory, and organization. Low dopamine levels may also be associated with other disorders, like depression, schizophrenia, and restless legs syndrome. 

What can someone do to increase their dopamine levels?

After learning the symptoms of dopamine deficiency, you might wonder what can be done to bring dopamine levels back to their desired level. As reported in a 2020 review published in European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, medications such as ropinirole and pramipexole are believed to increase dopamine levels. Ropinirole and pramipexole are often used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease as they imitate the function of dopamine and improve communication between neurons.

There are also natural ways that someone might increase their dopamine levels. According to Healthline, it may be possible to boost your dopamine levels by making changes to your diet.

As velvet beans and fava beans contain high levels of L-dopa, the precursor to dopamine, consuming more of them might improve dopamine levels naturally. However, velvet beans can be dangerous if taken in large quantities, so it's critical to take only the recommended amount. 

It's also been proposed that eating more proteins, particularly tyrosine and phenylalanine, can help produce more dopamine in the brain. Foods that are rich in protein, like turkey, beef, eggs, and dairy products, contain tyrosine and phenylalanine.

Making changes to your lifestyle can also stimulate the brain's production of dopamine. As explained by the Summit Malibu Treatment Center, taking part in meditation or yoga, getting enough rest, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol and recreational drug use could all increase dopamine levels.

If you're concerned by symptoms of low dopamine, consult with a doctor to decide on an appropriate treatment.