Dopamine Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Dopamine Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Dopamine deficiency can cause a person to have feelings of apathy and fatigue and to suffer from mood swings and chronic boredom. However, dopamine deficiency can also cause major health problems like depression, various addictions, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Parkinson’s disease.

If you feel like you have lost the ‘zest for life’, you could be suffering from low levels of dopamine.

Knowing how to increase dopamine levels can help you regain your joy in life, maintain a positive outlook, and be more motivated.

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – it helps nerve cells of the brain (neurons) to “communicate” with each other.

Although most scientists still don’t know exactly how dopamine works, all are in agreement that it is connected with our reward system and a feeling of pleasure.

It is also connected with our movements. The Society for Neuroscience published an article on research into dopamine, showing how it is connected with our central nervous system and that it is necessary to control movement. It was this research that led to a breakthrough in treatment for Parkinson’s disease.1

Dopamine is an important chemical which is necessary for the brain to function properly and helps people feel good about themselves.

What does Dopamine do?

Dopamine gives us feelings of pleasure when something nice happens. Dr. Stephen Fleming, an expert in neuroscience, said that dopamine is released especially if something pleasurable and unexpected happens.2 So, if you receive an unexpected gift or hear some great news, the brain will release dopamine.

However, dopamine does more than giving us feelings of pleasure.

Dopamine is also a motivator to make us work harder and get a reward. Professor of Psychology, John Salamone, carried out a study on rats to show how dopamine is associated with motivation. The animals with dopamine deficiency always chose the easiest path to get the low-value reward. However, animals with high levels of dopamine were willing to exert themselves (for example, to jump over a fence) to get a high-value reward.3

So, dopamine is essential for being motivated and feeling the rewards when we reach our goals. It gives us the feelings of satisfaction when our needs are met.

Dopamine also plays a number of other roles and some of its other notable functions are in:

  • memory
  • behavior and cognition
  • attention
  • sleep
  • learning

Causes of Dopamine Deficiency

Because the way the body processes dopamine and the various functions that are involved, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why some people have low levels of dopamine. However, there are various factors that scientists have pinpointed that cause low dopamine.


Stress can affect our body in many ways. Although dopamine can help us cope with a reasonable amount of stress, too much stress can have a negative impact on dopamine levels. A study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry said that stress exposure produced a decrease in the amount of dopamine that was produced.4


Being overweight can also reduce the number of dopamine receptors in the brain. In a study carried out by the Brookhaven National Laboratory, scientists found that in the obese individuals they examined, all of them had fewer dopamine receptors.5


Eating the right foods can raise levels of dopamine in the brain. However, a diet lacking in good nutrition can cause a dopamine deficiency.

Also, binging on sweet and fatty foods can also cause a reduction in the amount of dopamine receptors that are in the brain.6 And I have already mentioned that eating these foods regularly is one of the most dangerous brain damaging habits.

While foods such as sugar and alcohol can increase dopamine, they can cause a dopamine crash, where levels of dopamine are lower than they were before. These types of foods can also cause cravings and addictions, especially if a person relies on them for a dopamine ‘kick’.


It has also been proven that certain drugs can cause dopamine levels in the body to drop. One study showed that continual use of methamphetamines can cause a reduction in the density of dopamine transporters.7

It has also been shown that cocaine can interfere with dopamine levels in the brain and has a detrimental effect on dopamine levels.8

Symptoms of Dopamine Deficiency

One of the symptoms of dopamine deficiency is feeling that there is no joy in life. You might find that it is harder to get yourself motivated and not have pleasure in accomplishing tasks.

Professor John Salome, mentioned earlier, said that: “Low levels of dopamine make people and other animals less likely to work for things.”

Another symptom of dopamine deficiency is waking up sluggish in the morning and need to have a ‘kick’ of caffeine to get you going.

The other symptoms of a dopamine deficiency are:

  • Depression
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Oversleeping
  • Procrastination
  • Not feeling pleasure from daily activities
  • Cravings for sugary foods, sodas, alcohol and fatty foods.
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Not wanting to interact with others
  • Feelings of not coping
  • Low libido
  • Forgetfulness

Dopamine Deficiency Related Disorders

Understanding how dopamine deficiency can affect you can help you manage and treat various disorders that are the result of low levels of dopamine.

Here are some of the most common disorders that are associated with dopamine deficiency.

Dopamine deficiency and depression

Depression is one of the most common symptoms of dopamine deficiency. The low levels of dopamine can also make a depressed person suffer from chronic boredom, apathy, fatigue and having no feelings of satisfaction.

Studies have also shown that dopamine deficiency is connected with a depressive state.9 One study into why many Parkinson’s suffers also have depression showed that the reduction of dopamine also affects serotonin (another cause of clinical depression) and the result is an “expression of depressive behavior.”10

Further reading: 4 effective natural treatments for depression and turmeric may be the natural alternative to depression medications.

Low dopamine levels and addictions

Having low levels of dopamine can also cause various addictions.

Of course, the most common are addictions to drugs and alcohol. However, dopamine deficiency can also create any kind of addiction which gives the person a ‘high.’ So, this could be an addiction to shopping, gambling, and sugary foods.

One study into the effects of using stimulants like drugs and alcohol to boost dopamine levels showed that in time the body’s sensitivity to the stimulant decreases. The cycle of using stimulants to increase dopamine levels also has the effect of destroying dopamine receptors. Therefore, in the end, the person no longer experiences the ‘high’ from the drugs or alcohol, but has to take them just to feel ‘normal.’11

Dopamine and Parkinson’s disease

The National Parkinson’s Foundation says that when a person’s brain stops producing dopamine, the person has “less and less ability to regulate their movements, body, and emotions.”12

Because Parkinson’s disease is connected with a dopamine deficiency, the main way to manage the disease is by the use of drugs to increase dopamine levels. However, often these drugs over time lose their effectiveness because the body becomes less responsive to them.

Further reading: This fruit can halt Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Restless Legs Syndrome and Dopamine

One of the reasons that doctors think people suffer from restless legs syndrome is because of a dopamine deficiency. Increasing levels of dopamine in the body is the standard way of treating this medical condition.13

Dopamine and Social Phobia

Dopamine deficiency can also lead to feelings of isolation and difficulties in interacting with other people. Although difficulty in interacting with others is also a characteristic of depression, a small study showed that even people without depression can suffer from social phobia if they have a dopamine deficiency.14

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

Thankfully, there are many ways whereby you can increase dopamine levels naturally, and most of these have to do with positive lifestyle changes and diet.

Foods which contain the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine stimulate the production of dopamine in the body. These are found in most animal products.

However, you can also eat bananas, apples, green leafy vegetables, beets, nuts and legumes, turmeric, and dark chocolate to increase dopamine naturally.

Some supplements containing natural extracts also increase dopamine. These are curcumin, green tea, blueberry, and Ginkgo biloba. For more information, read my article about the best supplements to boost dopamine levels.

Physical exercise is also a great and healthy way to increase dopamine in the body. It can also help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular system, and a better general health. I have in my website many exercises for overall body work, including illustrations, such as exercises for legs and butt, tummy, back, chest and arms.

For more information, read my article about the best natural ways to increase dopamine.

Reade these related articles:
1. The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood
2. 18 Quick and Natural Ways to Boost Your Mood
3. Top Signs That You Have Magnesium Deficiency
4. The Best Serotonin Supplements to Boost your Mood



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