Brain Health The Most Common Low Dopamine Symptoms By Elizabeth Plumptre Elizabeth Plumptre LinkedIn Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 14, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN Medically reviewed by Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, is an award-winning physician-scientist and clinical development specialist. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print damircudic /Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Low Dopamine Symptoms Causes of Low Dopamine Associated Conditions How to Fix Low dopamine symptoms can cause a number of problems, including changes in mood, memory, sleep, and social behavior. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical, that plays the important role of sending signals from the brain to the body. It is produced naturally in different key sections of the brain and is important for functions such as motor skills, cognitive abilities, and reproduction. This neurotransmitter spikes in anticipation of something important which is about to happen, plays key roles in the body’s reward and motivation system, and also affects memory. Dopamine performs these important functions despite making up only a small percentage—less than one percent —of the brain’s neurons. In the right amount, this neurotransmitter is crucial for brain function, but when this amount is lowered beyond a prescribed point, it can just as equally have an unintended consequence on the body. What happens if you have too little dopamine? Dopamine deficiency has been linked to neurodegenerative conditions in the body. If you have symptoms of low dopamine levels, you might feel: Anxious or moody Depressed or hopeless Forgetful Indifferent about the things you used to enjoy Unable to concentrate Unable to sleep Unmotivated Uninterested in sex Withdrawn To understand the effects of low dopamine, we’ll first examine the signs and causes of this condition. Then, we’ll learn about the conditions most commonly linked to dopamine deficiency for a keener understanding of its effects. Finally, we'll share how you can maintain your body’s production of this important neurotransmitter. How Dopamine Influences Your Mental Health Low Dopamine Symptoms With links to conditions like schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease, dopamine deficiency can exhibit similar traits with these conditions. These traits include: Chronic back painPersistent constipationWeight fluctuationsDysphagia or difficulty swallowingSleep disordersFatigueAttention difficultiesReduced sex driveHallucinations and delusionsAspiration pneumoniaLow moods Causes of Low Dopamine A number of factors may be responsible for reduced dopamine in the body. These include sleep deprivation, obesity, drug abuse, saturated fat, and stress. Here's a closer look at each. Sleep Deprivation Besides your morning coffee, dopamine is one of the reasons you feel refreshed and alert most mornings. This wakefulness is promoted by dopamine receptors, in particular the D2 receptor. These receptors help to mediate the functions of dopamine in the body. However, sleep deprivation can reduce the number of D2 receptors in important parts of the brain. Where this happens, the transmission and production of dopamine is impacted. In fact, with a condition like Parkinson's disease which sustains low dopamine levels, most people feel excessive daytime sleepiness. Obesity Obesity has been linked to a number of health conditions, but one less known effect is the role it plays in downregulating or reducing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Like the results of sleep deprivation, obesity can lead to a reduction in D2 receptors in the brain. This becomes especially obvious when comparisons are made with the number of receptors in people who are not obese. Drug Abuse During early usage, certain drugs may contribute to an increase in dopamine. Cocaine is one drug that has been known to produce euphoria and increased dopamine levels following usage. However, long-term use of these drugs is certain to offer diminishing returns, especially where dopamine production is concerned. Because of the sustained increase in dopamine production following drug use, the brain intervenes to reduce the number of dopamine receptors available. Saturated Fat When you have fried chicken, buttered bread, chocolate, and other foods high in saturated fats, your brain understandably lights up with dopamine at all the pleasure you're receiving from these foods. However, while these foods only produce short-term enjoyment. Over time, persistently observing a high-fat diet disrupts central nervous system functioning, where dopamine is produced. When it is disrupted, this can lead to a dopamine deficit. Stress There are very few things stress is good for, and maintaining optimal dopamine levels isn’t one of them. When you are constantly exposed to stressors like financial difficulty, relationship troubles, workplace stress, and more, this can affect your body’s production of dopamine. Over time, this may also lead to a deficiency of the neurotransmitter in the body. Conditions Linked to Low Dopamine There are a number of conditions that can lead to low dopamine symptoms. Some of these include the following: Major Depressive Disorder Major depressive disorder is one of the most severe mental and behavioral disorders. It is characterized by prolonged depressive moods, or a lack of interest in activities that would ordinarily be appealing. This loss of interest is commonly referred to as anhedonia. However, beyond a loss of interest, anhedonia is also related to a disruption in the mind's reward process. The usual anticipation, motivation, and decision-making stages involved in the reward system are greatly affected. This change has been linked to dysfunctions in the dopamine system. Decreased levels of dopamine have been associated with major depressive disorders. The Chemistry of Depression Schizophrenia This disorder is linked with an abnormal interpretation of reality. Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition that can affect a person’s ability to think, act, or express themselves. Typically diagnosable by symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and abnormal physical gaits, these signs may also be attributed to an imbalance of dopamine in the body. Lower levels of dopamine have been linked to other signs such as anhedonia, an inability to complete tasks, and demotivation to engage in social interactions. Parkinson’s Disease Parkinson’s is a disorder of the nervous system. It is identifiable by tremors which may begin as barely noticeable, before progressing into obvious quivers, muscle stiffness, or delayed movement. This disorder may also cause problems with balance during motion. Parkinson’s disease is the result of a number of factors, one of which is a reduction in the production of dopamine in the brain. When there is a dopamine deficit, this can cause the distinct movement difficulties associated with this condition. How to Treat Low Dopamine Symptoms Low dopamine levels can produce negative reactions throughout the body. Some things that you can do to fix low dopamine include getting regular exercise, eating foods that support dopamine production, consuming probiotics, and listening to music Exercise Working up a sweat by running, swimming, dancing, or other forms of movement, can help with increasing dopamine levels in the body. Studies carried out on animals have shown that certain portions of the brain are flushed with dopamine during physical activity. It is why exercising may sometimes produce a high. Natural Sources Your body’s supply of dopamine may be supported by external sources. Natural sources such as bananas, plantain, and avocado have been found to contain high levels of dopamine. Apples, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes have also been recognized as dopamine sources. Proteins are also notable components in the dopamine production process. Probiotics Probiotics may get more notice for promoting gut health, but this bacteria is not only an important part of the body’s microbiome, it may also be useful for the production of dopamine and other neurotransmitters. New Research Reveals Mood Boosting Effects of Probiotics Music It’s not 100% certain how music affects the brain, but there’s a reason why certain songs give you chills, make you mellow, and very notably, have the power to invigorate you while listening. The last potential may be due to the ability of music to stimulate dopamine production in the brain. This leaves you with feelings of pleasure and excitement when listening to music, and can help to increase dwindling dopamine levels. A Word From Verywell In the right amount, dopamine can give you feelings of pleasure, excitement and motivation when carrying out activities. Things start to go south, however, when the body runs low on this neurotransmitter. This can happen because of a genetic predisposition, obesity, stress, and other causes. When this happens, it isn't uncommon for you to experience persistent tiredness, constipation, poor moods, sleep disorders, and other negative reactions. Thankfully, the body's dopamine levels can be increased using the right diet that consists of fruits like banana, probiotics, as well as protein. You can also get your dopamine fix by listening to music and routinely engaging in exercise. 24 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Arias-Carrión O, Stamelou M, Murillo-Rodríguez E, Menéndez-González M, Pöppel E. Dopaminergic reward system: a short integrative review. Int Arch Med. 2010;3:24. Published 2010 Oct 6. doi:10.1186/1755-7682-3-24 Martikainen IK, Nuechterlein EB, Peciña M, et al. Chronic Back Pain Is Associated with Alterations in Dopamine Neurotransmission in the Ventral Striatum. J Neurosci. 2015;35(27):9957-9965. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4605-14.2015 Sanger GJ. Chronic constipation: improved understanding offers a new therapeutic approach. J Physiol. 2016;594(15):4085-4087. doi:10.1113/JP272560 Reinholz J, Skopp O, Breitenstein C, Bohr I, Winterhoff H, Knecht S. Compensatory weight gain due to dopaminergic hypofunction: new evidence and own incidental observations. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008;5:35. Published 2008 Dec 1. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-5-35 Polychronis S, Dervenoulas G, Yousaf T, Niccolini F, Pagano G, Politis M. Dysphagia is associated with presynaptic dopaminergic dysfunction and greater non-motor symptom burden in early drug-naïve Parkinson's patients. PLoS One. 2019;14(7):e0214352. Published 2019 Jul 25. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0214352 Blum K, Oscar-Berman M, Badgaiyan RD, Khurshid KA, Gold MS. Dopaminergic Neurogenetics of Sleep Disorders in Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS). J Sleep Disord Ther. 2014;3(2):126. doi:10.4172/2167-0277.1000e126 Dobryakova E, Genova HM, DeLuca J, Wylie GR. The dopamine imbalance hypothesis of fatigue in multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders. Front Neurol. 2015;6:52. Published 2015 Mar 12. doi:10.3389/fneur.2015.00052 Gold MS, Blum K, Oscar-Berman M, Braverman ER. Low dopamine function in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: should genotyping signify early diagnosis in children?. Postgrad Med. 2014;126(1):153-177. doi:10.3810/pgm.2014.01.2735 Graf H, Malejko K, Metzger CD, Walter M, Grön G, Abler B. Serotonergic, Dopaminergic, and Noradrenergic Modulation of Erotic Stimulus Processing in the Male Human Brain. J Clin Med. 2019;8(3):363. Published 2019 Mar 14. doi:10.3390/jcm8030363 Tost H, Alam T, Meyer-Lindenberg A. Dopamine and psychosis: theory, pathomechanisms and intermediate phenotypes. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010;34(5):689-700. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.06.005 Sasaki H, Sekizawa K, Yanai M, Arai H, Yamaya M, Ohrui T. New strategies for aspiration pneumonia. Intern Med. 1997;36(12):851-855. doi:10.2169/internalmedicine.36.851 Diehl DJ, Gershon S. The role of dopamine in mood disorders. Compr Psychiatry. 1992;33(2):115-120. doi:10.1016/0010-440x(92)90007-d Volkow ND, Tomasi D, Wang GJ, et al. Evidence that sleep deprivation downregulates dopamine D2R in ventral striatum in the human brain. J Neurosci. 2012;32(19):6711-6717. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0045-12.2012 Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, Telang F. Overlapping neuronal circuits in addiction and obesity: evidence of systems pathology. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008;363(1507):3191-3200. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0107 Mahapatra A. Overeating, obesity, and dopamine receptors. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2010;1(5):346-347. doi:10.1021/cn100044y NIDA. Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2017/03/impacts-drugs-neurotransmission. Reyes TM. High-fat diet alters the dopamine and opioid systems: effects across development. Int J Obes Suppl. 2012;2(Suppl 2):S25-S28. doi:10.1038/ijosup.2012.18 Belujon P, Grace AA. Dopamine System Dysregulation in Major Depressive Disorders. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017;20(12):1036-1046. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyx056 Risch SC. Pathophysiology of schizophrenia and the role of newer antipsychotics. Pharmacotherapy. 1996;16(1 Pt 2):11-14. Nia.nih.gov (n.d) Parkinson’s disease. Heijnen S, Hommel B, Kibele A, Colzato LS. Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise-A Review. Front Psychol. 2016;6:1890. Published 2016 Jan 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01890 Briguglio M, Dell'Osso B, Panzica G, et al. Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge. Nutrients. 2018;10(5):591. Published 2018 May 10. doi:10.3390/nu10050591 Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Dietary proteins and food-related reward signals. Food Nutr Res. 2011;55:10.3402/fnr.v55i0.5955. doi:10.3402/fnr.v55i0.5955 Ferreri L, Mas-Herrero E, Zatorre RJ, et al. Dopamine modulates the reward experiences elicited by music. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019;116(9):3793-3798. doi:10.1073/pnas.1811878116 By Elizabeth Plumptre Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.