What Is A Dopamine Molecule And How Does It Affect Me?
By Sarah Fader
Updated February 17, 2020
Reviewer Jeffrey Craven , MA, LMHC, LPCC, LLC
You've likely heard of dopamine before, but you may not know what it is or what it does. Well, it's not going to take too much to understand it's importance in your body but we're not going to focus on the scientific stuff, okay? A dopamine molecule is something that's going to make your life easier and explaining the science of how it's made just might make you a little less interested (or make you a little more sleepy).
What Is A Dopamine Molecule?
Dopamine is a chemical that occurs organically (meaning naturally) in your body. It's also something that occurs in animals and even in plants, which means it's something we have in common with all living things that are around us in the world. When it's located in the brain, it works as a way to send signals from one nerve cell to another, allowing you to experience pain, for example. The dopamine helps to transfer information as far as it needs to go, even throughout the entire body.
There are different pathways throughout the brain that are used by dopamine as well, and each of these pathways works with a different part of your brain activity. First, there's a pathway that provides you with motivation related to reward-based behaviors. For example, if you know that a specific behavior is going to get you a specific reward you're more likely to complete the behavior, right? That's because dopamine is released in your brain when you know that a reward is coming based on behavior. You feel happier and more excited about the outcome and what you're going to get as a result.
Another pathway is related to the motor control within your body, and still another one is related to the way that different hormones within the body are released. Overall, it creates a full system for the dopamine within your body and helps you to experience your life the way that you should. Not so long ago dopamine was considered the 'happy drug.' Meaning that it made you feel better and provided you with feelings of pleasure. But we've now discovered that's not exactly the case. More research has been done that's found a different, and more accurate, description for dopamine, a method of mediating desire and motivation.
Of course, there are far more things that dopamine can do for you within your body. For example, it can inhibit the release of norepinephrine and help to increase sodium excretion or urine excretion. It can reduce the production of insulin and gastrointestinal motility and even helps to protect intestinal mucosa. It's also able to reduce the activity of lymphocytes. Because it's produced throughout the body and affects so many different areas of the body, dopamine is an important aspect of your overall health and well-being.
What Happens Without Dopamine?
When there isn't enough dopamine in the body, it can cause a range of different health problems. For example, a lack of dopamine in the brain occurs in Parkinson's disease. Schizophrenia, nausea, restless leg syndrome, attention deficit disorder and more can occur as a result of lower levels of dopamine in conjunction with other problems within the body.
There's no telling what could happen or what you could experience if you're not very careful about taking care of your body. Of course, knowing that you're low on dopamine is difficult but keeping track of everything you feel can help your doctor to understand better what's going on.
Every part of your body needs some dopamine to function. Whether it uses that dopamine as a transmitter of information or to help with normal processes or for any other purpose at all, it's something that you need to have, no matter what. Because dopamine is produced in different parts of the body, however, it's possible for you to have low levels in one area of the brain and have high levels in other areas. That's why so much research is being done to understand better how to create it artificially.
There have been several artificial versions of dopamine created and used as a treatment for a range of different disorders. The medicinal versions can help those who have low levels of dopamine in their body and is especially used for things like low blood pressure, a slow heart or even cardiac arrest.
Dopamine is safe and effective enough that it can even be used in infants and can be used as an intravenous drip to help make sure enough dopamine is getting into the system. Keeping proper moderation is an important step.
If you're experiencing low levels of dopamine in the brain, it can lead to changes in your mood and behavior even without causing a medical condition like Parkinson's Disease. That means it's important to talk with a professional if you experience moods or feelings that seem different to you in any way. If you find yourself more anxious, frustrated, angry, sad or even excited or happy than is normal for you it's important to talk to your doctor about the situation.
Sometimes you may feel these emotions more or less than others, but if you seem to go through streaks where the feelings are strong, it may be a sign of something more.
BetterHelp is one place you can find help for anything you're going through. Whether you're experiencing highs or lows, you'll want to talk with someone who can help you through the experience and help you get back to feeling healthy and happy again. With this service, you do everything right online, so there's no need to visit a psychiatrist's office or deal with any of the judgmental stares of the other people in the waiting room. You just log on, and you'll be ready to go in no time at all and so will your psychiatrist, from anywhere in the country.