If dopamine is our brain’s feel-good chemical, what happens when this neurotransmitter production is exhausted? Dopamine deficiency is real and extremely problematic for people currently experiencing downturns in dopamine production. After all, this specific brain chemical is tied to emotional responses and vital for both physical and mental well being. Dealing with dopamine burnout can feel like a never ending uphill battle. What are some ways to resolve these issues while avoiding toxic substance use?
America’s Fast-Paced Hustle Culture
Regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, and religion, stress is a normal part of life. However, social culture continues to embody fast-paced living and hustle trends that often result in overworking and high stress. In fact, stress is becoming an epidemic not dissimilar to alcohol and drugs.
According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS):
- About 33% of people report feeling extreme stress
- 77% of Americans experience stress that affects physical health
- 73% of people have stress that impacts their mental health
- 48% of people have trouble sleeping due to stress
People have very different ideas concerning their definition of stress. Probably the most common is “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension,” according to AIS.
Link Between Stress and Neurotransmitters
The brain is a well-functioning organ and relies heavily on balancing its essential messengers, known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters can include chemicals that are tasked with regulating specific body and emotional functions. In general, they’re responsible for keeping our body running as it should. These neurochemicals can include:
While each carries out its own functions, there are some commonalities. Serotonin and dopamine, for example, both play some role in regulating mood. However, certain brain transmitters are only activated in specific situations. For example, under extreme duress, the adrenal glands release stress hormones like cortisol, while other areas trigger the release of catecholamines. They effectively mobilize energy, often coinciding with a “flight or flight” response.
The issue is when these critical neurotransmitters are impacted by extreme stress, trauma, events, imbalances, or even due to drug abuse. The result is having too little or too much to ensure reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and other physical ailments.
Dopamine depletion can happen to anyone and can be linked to numerous health and neurological health conditions like depression or PTSD, according to GoodTherapy. Similarly, drugs and alcohol temporarily flood the brain with dopamine. The pleasurable sensations often encourage a person to continue using substances to achieve dopamine rushes. Unfortunately, over time, this leads a person to depend on more to achieve the same results.
How does dopamine burnout occur? Burnout isn’t necessarily directly linked to dopamine depletion. Instead, burnout is an event caused by extended periods of emotional stress caused by a person’s perceptions of being unable to fulfill unreasonable demands. The symptoms, according to Psychology Today, that occur as the result of burnout include:
- Physical fatigue
- Lowered self-worth
- Changes in eating
- Social withdrawal
- Sleep disorders
In other words, the symptoms of burnout can be one cause of dopamine depletion. It’s essential to understand how mental health plays a role in the imbalance of brain chemicals. These issues can lead many individuals to seek relief through substance abuse.
The Brain’s Response to Burnout
The brain is a fantastic organ that frequently responds to experience and environmental factors. If a person feels burned out, for example, the brain can rewire itself to combat feelings of stress by entering into a type of survival mode.
According to neuroscience experts, patterns within the brain change when stress buildup leads to burnout. In a nutshell, when a person’s in a stressful, burned-out state, the brain moves to rewire to manage the flood of stress chemicals. Effectively, the lower, reactive brain is put in charge, overshadowing the calm, reflective, and productive higher neural processing. In other words, not enough dopamine.
Methods to Combat Dopamine Burnout
If you’re experiencing high-stress levels at home or work, you must take steps to address the concerns. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones is not only detrimental to bodily functions, but it can impact long-term health and increase exposure or susceptibility to substance abuse. Alcohol and drugs, however, will only temporarily resolve dopamine depletion. In the long-run, it may cause these issues to worsen.
What are some things to do to help boost dopamine production safely? Luckily, our bodies can adapt fairly quickly. Recovering from burnout is achievable through health measures that are both safe and natural. A few tips recommended by Healthline include:
- Consuming more protein – the amino acids called tyrosine plays a critical role in dopamine production. Consider eating protein-rich foods that include turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, and legumes.
- Eat Less Saturated Fat – these include pork, cream, butter, cheese, etc.
- Exercise Frequently – studies suggest mood improvements begin after 10 minutes of aerobic activity.
- Ensuring Adequate Sleep – high-quality sleep helps with concentration and coordination while also boosting dopamine levels.
- Listen to music – music stimulates dopamine production by at least 9%
- Get outside – fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for happy chemicals in the brain
In general, dopamine is an important brain chemical that influences your mood and feelings of reward and motivation. It helps regulate body movements as well. Levels are generally well regulated by the body, but you can make a few diet and lifestyle changes to boost your levels naturally.
AspenRidge Recovery: Dual Diagnosis Treatment
It’s common for substance abuse and chemical imbalance to occur simultaneously. Substance abuse can lead to drastic drops in dopamine and serotonin levels, or existing chemical imbalances can create a demand for relief using dangerous substances.
It’s important to note that alcohol and drugs cannot fix the underlying issues associated with dopamine burnout. In fact, it can only make symptoms worse. However, if substance dependency is already problematic, it’s essential that an individual seek treatment that addresses both addiction as well as the imbalances within these neural networks.
Our Colorado addiction treatment programs offer support from a mental health and substance abuse standpoint. We tailor our approach to match specific client needs and can help to better gauge how to approach correcting imbalances. We offer a continuum of support for all of our programs, including:
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- Outpatient Program (OP)
Contact us directly at 855-281-5588 for information on our drug rehab resources and mental health treatment approaches.