Reward Yourself: Increase DopamineJul 23, 2020
by Henry Emmons, MD
[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]
p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first.
Dopamine 101 & How to Raise It When Deficient
The effects of dopamine are more complex than those of norepinephrine, at least in regards to anxiety. In some ways, they have a similar function.
Both dopamine and norepinephrine:
- Tend to be energizing and aid in mental focus and concentration.
- Can aggravate anxiety when levels are way too high.
However, dopamine has some beneficial effects against anxiety.
- Improve motivation and the experience of pleasure.
- Enhance microcirculation in parts of the brain.3
Unless dopamine becomes really excessive, your anxiety may improve if you gently boost your dopamine levels.
How do you know if dopamine is deficient?
Low dopamine symptoms include:
- Feel apathetic and fatigued.
- Difficulty losing weight.
- Feel unmotivated (as with exercise).
- Low sex drive.
- General difficulty getting pleasure from things.
If you have these signs along with anxiety, consider taking measures to boost dopamine function.
How to Increase Dopamine Levels with Supplements
B vitamins; omega 3 fatty acids; the amino acid l-theanine; and herbal therapies such as ginkgo biloba and St. John’s wort may be used to boost dopamine:
*Note: Some of the supplements discussed in this article can cause side effects, but many people tolerate them much better than prescription medications. They are generally considered safe, however, they should not be started without your doctor’s knowledge and supervision. If you are taking medication already, be sure to talk with your doctor before adding any of these items. If you are considering going off medication, remember never to stop your medication suddenly—always consult with your doctor about how to safely taper off any psychiatric medication. See terms (link terms).
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Learn how to boost your serotonin.
Nearly everyone feels better when their serotonin levels are optimal. Its wide array of functions range from sleep to appetite to impulse control to sexual desire. It's the brain chemical that helps soothe stress, and it offers protection to the brain against the damaging effects of cortisol. Read the article.
- Hassel, B., & Dingledine, R. (2006). Glutamate. In Siegel,G. J., Albers, R. W., Brady, S. T., & Price, D. L. (Eds.), Basic neurochemistry: Molecular, cellular, and medical aspects (267-290). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
- Kim, A. H., et al. (2002). Blocking excitotoxicity. In Marcoux, F. W., & Choi, D. W. (Eds.), Neuroprotection (3-36). New York: Springer.
- Krimer, L. S., et al. (1998). Dopaminergic regulation of cerebral cortical microcirculation. Nature Neuroscience, 1, 286-289.
- Wichers, M., & Maes, M. (2002). The psychoneuroimmuno-pathophysiology of cytokine induced depression in humans. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 5, 375-438.
- Peled, R., et al. (2008). Breast cancer, psychological distress and life events among young women BMC Cancer, 8.
- Alhaj, H. A., et al. (2006). Effects of DHEA administration on episodic memory, cortisol and mood in healthy young men: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Psychopharmacology, 188(4), 541-551.
- Darbinyan, V., et al. (2007). Clinical trial of Rhodiola Rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 61(5), 343-348.
- Bystritsky, A., et al. (2008). A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(2), 175-180.
- Khanum, F., et al. (2005). Rhodiola rosea: A versatile adaptogen. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 4, 55-62.
- Lombard, J. (2006, September). Neurobiology of mood and cognition: Strategies and protocols of neurotransmitter balance. Presented at Great Lakes Conference.
- Kobayashi, K., et al. (1998). Effects of L-theanine on the release of alpha-brain waves in human volunteers. Journal of the Agricultural Chemical Society of Japan, 72(2), 153-157.
- Lake, J. (2008). Integrative Management of Anxiety. Psychiatric Times, 25(1), 13-16.
- Grant, J., et al. (2007). N-acetyl cysteine, a glutamate-modulating agent, in the treatment of pathological gambling: A pilot study. Biological Psychiatry, 62(6), 652-657.
- Grant, J., et al. (2009). N-acetylcysteine, a glutamate modulator, in the treatment of trichotillomania. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66(7), 756-763.
- Mori, M., et al., (2002). Beta-alanine and taurine as endogenous agonists at glycine receptors in rat hippocampus in vitro. The Journal of Physiology, 539, 191-200.
- Wu, H., et al. (2005). Mode of action of taurine as a neuroprotector. Brain Research, 1038(2), 123-131.
- Palatnik, A., et al. (2001). Double-blind, controlled, crossover trial of inositol versus fluvoxamine for the treatment of panic disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 21(3), 335-339.
- Abdou, A., et al. (2006). Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. BioFactors, 26, 201-208.
- Kinrys, G., et al. (2009). Natural remedies for anxiety disorders: Potential use and clinical applications. Depression and Anxiety, 26, 259-265.
- Akhondzadeh, S., et al. (2001). Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: A pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 26, 363-367.
- Yuan, C. S., et al. (2004). The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 98, 353-358.
- Panijel, M. (1985). Therapy of symptoms of anxiety. Therapiewoche, 41, 4659-4668.