Serotonin and Dopamine

If you have ever suffered from an addiction before, such as a gambling addiction or a shopping addiction, or if you have ever had an attack of depression or suffered from a reduction in mental focus, it may have been because of a problem with one of your brain's neurotransmitters. There are two strong neurotransmitters in the brain that are often linked to some of these behaviors. They are known as serotonin and dopamine. You can have too much of these neurotransmitters or too little of them, causing some problems in your life.

What Are Serotonin and Dopamine?

The first thing you need to know about neurotransmitter is that there are two different types. These are inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters. Excitatory neurotransmitters are stimulatory to the brain's nerve fibers. Inhibitory neurotransmitters are calming brain chemicals. It is the inhibitory transmitters that help us balance our mood; they can be diminished in the face of too many excitatory brain chemicals. Serotonin and dopamine are opposites of one another when it comes to their effect on the brain.

Serotonin: Inhibitory Neurotransmitter

Serotonin falls under the classification as an inhibitory brain chemical. It doesn't stimulate the brain like dopamine can and will balance out the excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain. You need plenty of serotonin in your brain in order to be calm and have a stable mood. It is also important in the regulation of other brain processes, such as pain control, your sleep cycle, cravings for carbs, and adequate digestion of our food.

If you take in too many stimulants, such as ordinary caffeine, it can gradually deplete the amount of serotonin you have in your brain. When your serotonin level becomes too low, you will suffer from immunosuppression and will be prone to being sick from various pathogens.

Dopamine: Excitatory Neurotransmitter (Mainly)

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps us focus. In this way, serotonin and dopamine are opposites of each other. If dopamine levels are too low or too high, we can have problems on focusing. We may forget where we placed our keys, we may forget a book passage we just read, or we may suffer form off-task behavior—daydreaming instead of remaining on task. Dopamine is important in helping us have mental drive or an impulse to get things accomplished. It affects our motivation. When we have enough dopamine, we act more towards our desires, needs, and goals and when we finally reach our goals, we will feel happy.

Drugs used as stimulants, such as those for ADHD and the chemical, caffeine, will increase dopamine in order to improve mental focus. If we stimulate this neurotransmitter too much, however, it can eventually cause it to decrease over time.

One special thing to mention, you should notice that dopamine is unique in that it can be inhibitory and it can be excitatory, whereas serotonin is just inhibitory.

The following video will help you understand serotonin, dopamine and our brain better.

Relationship Between Serotonin and Dopamine

Serotonin and dopamine can be thought of as being two different glasses of milk. Together they take up 100 units of fluid, each taking fifty percent of the total. In order to maintain having a hundred units at all times, you must borrow from one of the glasses to fill up the other.

If our life is to be completely balanced, there is about fifty units in the dopamine glass and fifty units in the dopamine class. If they, however, become out of balance, the more likely our lives become out of balance. What happens when there is an imbalance between serotonin and dopamine?

1. When Serotonin Levels Are Low

Without serotonin or with low serotonin, we suffer from depression and experience a loss of pleasure. This is the main problem with low serotonin.Other symptoms of low serotonin include the following:

  • Having a significant sensitivity to pain
  • Being angry all the time
  • Having constipation
  • Having carb cravings and problems with binge eating
  • Feeling low mood from a lack of sunlight
  • Having problems with digestion
  • Feeling easily overwhelmed
  • Feeling a dependency on other people
  • Having an excess of vigilance
  • Suffering from insomnia
  • Having a lack of joy
  • Having migraines
  • Having a lower self-esteem
  • Having ringing of the ears
  • Having poor cognition

What to do: When there is low serotonin and dopamine is high, you can increase your serotonin levels by exercising several days per week, by being exposed to sunlight, by relaxing as much as you can, by taking a hold of your stress levels, by getting enough sleep, and by making adequate changes to your diet. There are several foods that boost serotonin levels, such as salmon, chicken, avocados, walnuts, baked potatoes, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and lentils. You should eat these foods several times daily.

2. When Dopamine Level Are Low

With low dopamine syndromes, you have no motivation in life. You can feel hopelessness, apathy, and a lack of joy. You have a problem starting things and have problems completing them. Some other symptoms of low dopamine include the following:

  • Feeling tired
  • Having problems feeling pleasure
  • Suffering from insomnia
  • Having a hard time getting up in the morning
  • Suffering from mood swings
  • Forgetting things
  • Having problems with concentration and focus
  • Having loss of memory
  • Having a low sex drive
  • Having problems connecting to others
  • Craving caffeine
  • Craving carbs and sugar
  • Having problems with weight loss
  • Having problems dealing with stress

What to do: There are a lot of foods you can eat in order to increase dopamine levels. Foods containing serotonin and dopamine are different. Dopaminergic foods include bananas, almonds, beets, apples, coffee, chocolate, lima beans, leafy greens, oatmeal, watermelon, sea vegetables, animal products, and watermelon, among others. You can also exercise regularly to rise your dopamine levels. Listen to music, meditate, and engage in some hobbies that are very creative, such as house repair, photography, drawing, sewing and knitting. These things can help with the release of dopamine by helping you meditate. 

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