Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter, which belongs to the family of catecholamines. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are two other members of catecholamine family. Dopamine is produced mainly in the adrenal medulla and the nervous system. It has a role to play in many functions of the brain such as cognition and behavior. The release of dopamine has association with feelings of reward and pleasure. The normal range of dopamine in plasma is 0 to 30 pg/mL (195.8 pmol/L).
What Are the Causes of too Much Dopamine?
According to the website “Psychology Today”, there is an association of dopamine with initiation of movement of muscles, sleeplessness, euphoria, motivation and appetite loss. It also takes part in your ability to pay attention and concentrate. The causes of excess dopamine in the blood are described below:
Drugs: Both medicinal and illegal drugs can raise the levels of dopamine in blood.
- This is commonly seen in patients who have Parkinson’s disease and who receive treatment with drug Levodopa. In Parkinson’s disease, dopamine receptors are targeted and the neurotransmitter is depleted, whereas, Levodopa works by replacing the depleted dopamine.
- Ritalin, which is another drug that enhances dopamine and is given to treat attention deficit disorder, works by adding more dopamine and helps people with unfocused and fidgety behaviors.
- Stimulants including alcohol and drugs such as cocaine increase the release of dopamine in the brain.
Risk-taking behavior: A study conducted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Vanderbilt University has connected thrill seeking and risk taking behavior to excessive dopamine in blood. The study done on 34 subjects demonstrated that those who took risks had less dopamine receptors in comparison to non-risk takers. The brains of risk takers were not able to limit the quantity of dopamine secreted, therefore, making risk a great high and leaving them asking for more.
Insomnia and stimulants: The levels of dopamine in brain can also increase due to insomnia and stimulants, which are formulated to prevent sleep, including amphetamines.
Others: Exercise, certain supplements and foods also increase the levels of dopamine in brain. Supplements including vitamin E and C leads to too much dopamine in brain and foods, which contain antioxidants or tyrosine such as vegetables, fruits, avocados, almonds, lima beans, bananas, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, or dairy products may raise levels of dopamine.
What Are the Symptoms of Excessive Dopamine in the Body?
A list of symptoms is described below that may occur from excessive dopamine:
- Hiccups: Some persons may have increased hiccups due to high dopamine levels.
- Muscle twitching: High dopamine may produce involuntary movements, shaking, muscle twitching and tremors.
- Salivation: Excess salivation can be triggered by increased levels of dopamine.
- Agitation: You may feel over-stimulated, nervous, and restless and have difficulty sitting still for long duration of time.
- Anxiety: You may feel increased anxiety due to high dopamine levels in the brain.
- Cognitive acuity: The cognitive functions such as learning, memory and problem solving improve due to excessive dopamine in the body.
- Feelings of immense pleasure: If you have excess dopamine, then even simple activities such as watching TV or writing may provide feelings of immense pleasure.
- High energy: You may experience high levels of energy similar to someone who took cocaine or an individual having bipolar mania.
- High libido: Increased dopamine levels are associated with increased sex drive and sexual pleasure.
- Hyperactivity: Some persons with high levels of dopamine become hyperactive. This hyperactive behavior may be a result of continuous pleasure-seeking behavior that is associated with elevation of dopamine.
- Insomnia: Excessive levels of dopamine may produce difficulty in falling asleep, thereby, causing insomnia. Low dopamine levels cause symptoms of chronic fatigue and lethargy. Hence, drugs, which increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, cause problems in sleeping and insomnia.
- Learning: Too much dopamine in some areas of brain may increase your ability and motivation to learn novel things.
- Mania: Elevated levels of dopamine may trigger symptoms of hypomania or mania, which are reduced need to sleep, feeling happy, talkativeness, impulsive behavior, etc.
- Motivation: People who are overachievers or “go getters” tend to posses increased levels of dopamine. This is what fuels their performance and energy. It also helps them remain motivated to finish the particular work to the end.
- Organizing thoughts: Increased levels of dopamine help in organizing your thoughts. Those persons who have difficult time staying productive or organizing their thoughts are believed to have lower dopamine levels.
- Paranoia: People who experience paranoia have increased levels of dopamine (extracellular) in the brain.
- In some cases high dopamine levels in certain brain areas may produce adverse psychological and physiological reactions. Some of these are:
- Aggression: Some individuals may become increasingly aggressive or antisocial towards others.
- Depression: Some types of depression may be associated with too much dopamine. Such persons will have high energy levels, show aggressive behavior and have an increased sex drive.
- Delusions: Some people may experience delusions such as of ‘grandeur’, especially those with schizophrenia.
- Digestive tract problems: Nausea and vomiting may result due to excessive dopamine in the brain.
- Hallucinations: When dopamine is raised to a level, which brain is not able to process, an individual may have hallucinations. The hallucinations experienced may be visual or auditory or both.
How to Decrease too Much Dopamine?
Some ways you can consider to decrease dopamine levels are:
Step 1: Discuss with your physician about antipsychotic drugs. Antipsychotic medicines are psychiatric drugs, which affect levels of dopamine and are utilized in the treatment of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia. However, they can be used to decrease levels of dopamine in cases of stuttering, addiction and impulsive behaviors.
Step 2: Increase your dietary intake of foods, which increase serotonin, for instance carbohydrates. This may help you decrease the effects of dopamine. Also avoid the use of caffeine as it releases dopamine in brain. Avoid black teas, caffeinated sodas and coffee to reduce your levels of dopamine. Avoid foods rich in L-tyrosine, which is a precursor of dopamine such as duck, dark chocolate, cheese, chicken and oatmeal.
Step 3: You can try some herbal supplements. Certain herbs may increase the level of serotonin, which helps in lowering dopamine. Some examples of these supplements are St. John’s wort, ginseng and dandelion. However, scientific evidence is lacking regarding these supplements and their use is not under the regulation of the FDA. Hence, you should always consult your physician before starting herbal supplement.