Is It Possible To Have Too Much Dopamine?
* Verified by a US-based board-certified doctor.
We all know that certain chemicals are good for our bodies, with dopamine being one of them. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s associated with feelings of pleasure. It also plays a big role in how we think and interact with others.
While everyone has varying levels of dopamine, there’s no reliable method for measuring dopamine levels in the brain. So how can you tell if you have too much or too little dopamine? Is it even possible to have too much dopamine?
Read on to learn all about dopamine.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical found in the body. As we said, it’s a type of neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters help send signals from the body to the brain.
The right balance of dopamine helps to improve both your physical and mental health. Vital brain functions that affect sleep, mood, memory, concentration, motor control, and learning all relate to the dopamine levels in a person’s body.
Often, those who suffer from certain medical conditions also suffer from a dopamine deficiency. The dopamine deficiency is often a result of your body dropping the amount of dopamine it makes. It can also be a result of brain receptor issues.
Dementia, depression, and addiction are all related to low dopamine levels. Brain injuries, chronic medical conditions, age, and health status can all affect the body’s dopamine levels.
Even if you have normal dopamine levels at one point in your life, you may experience low dopamine levels at another point in your life.
Signs of Low Dopamine Levels
While there isn’t a test you can take to determine if you have low dopamine levels, there are some telltale signs to keep your eye out for. Signs of low dopamine include:
- Problems with concentration and motivation
- Feelings of depression
- Shaking hands or tremors
- Restless leg syndrome
- Working memory issues
- Low sex drive
- Coordination issues
- Symptoms of ADHD
- Symptoms of dementia
- Symptoms of schizophrenia
Depending on the affected brain system, genetics, lifestyle, and myriad other factors, low dopamine levels can manifest differently from person to person.
It’s important to understand that low dopamine is not a medical diagnosis, and doctors rarely inquire about patients’ dopamine levels. To treat low dopamine levels, your doctor will first ask you to describe your symptoms.
They’ll then diagnose your condition and choose a treatment plan according to the diagnosis. For example, your doctor may determine that your low dopamine levels are a result of depression.
If this is the case, they may prescribe you medication for your depression or recommend you to a therapist. These treatments should then help increase your dopamine levels over time.
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How to Increase Dopamine Levels
While taking medication can help increase dopamine levels, it isn’t always necessary. Often, healthy lifestyle changes can help increase your dopamine levels. These include:
- Getting more exercise
- Practicing meditation
- Spending time outdoors
- Spending time with others
Cutting out drugs and alcohol can also help improve dopamine levels. Ironically, drugs and alcohol provide a temporary flood of dopamine to the brain.
While this may sound like a good thing, over time, a person will need more and more of the illicit substance to feel the same dopamine rush. Then, if someone temporarily stops using their substance of choice, the brain may start to produce less dopamine.
This rush of dopamine followed by an abrupt drop in dopamine is often what leads to addiction and relapse. In other words, you should never turn to drugs or alcohol to get a dopamine “fix.”
Signs of High Dopamine Levels
Just as some people have low levels of dopamine, so too do some people have high levels of dopamine. Some people have dopamine receptors that are more responsive, while others’ bodies release more dopamine.
Because dopamine is associated with pleasant feelings, high levels of dopamine may sound like the golden ticket to happiness.
However, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. While some effects of high dopamine levels can be positive, others may not be as favorable as you’d assume. In some cases, high dopamine levels may even be a result of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Here are some signs that you have high dopamine levels:
- You seek pleasure-focused behaviors (this can include anything from drinking alcohol to gambling)
- You’re very extroverted (aka, you love to socialize and get energy from social interactions)
- You experience mania, which manifests as a decreased need for sleep, feelings of grandiosity, racing thoughts, and a desire to be more talkative
- You feel paranoid or suspicious
- You tend to react to things with intense excitement
- You engage in emotional eating
- You suffer from constipation
- You have trouble concentrating
The above signs don’t automatically mean you have high dopamine levels, but it’s worth considering.
Can You Have Too Much Dopamine?
If the above signs are affecting your daily life, then there’s a chance that you have too much dopamine. Having too much dopamine is also linked to having poor impulse control and being more competitive and aggressive.
Having too much dopamine in your body can also lead to serious issues and health conditions, such as addiction, ADHD, and poor eating habits.
If you’re looking to counter the effects of too much dopamine, start by speaking to your doctor. Often, excess dopamine is a result of a prescription medication. Slightly tweaking your dosage may be all you need to do to get your dopamine levels back on track.
As you can see, it’s possible to have too much dopamine and it’s possible to have too little dopamine. Finding the “right balance” of dopamine can be tough, especially when there’s no definitive way to measure dopamine levels.
One of the best ways to balance out your dopamine levels is to focus on leading a healthy lifestyle.
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