When you think of dopamine, you likely think of feelings of excitement and a rewarding sensation, so having high levels of dopamine in your body seems like it would be a positive thing. Although the neurotransmitter does create these pleasant feelings, you can have too much of a good thing. There are a number of interesting signs you have naturally high levels of dopamine, and although some of the effects can be positive, some may not be as favorable as you think.
"Some people have either dopamine neurotransmitter receptors that are more responsive or they release more dopamine in response to a stimulus for dopamine (incentive for a reward)," psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz tells Bustle. "Either way, the response is a greater feeling of reward in response to the incentive. Why they have this brain is likely some combination of genetics and environment influencing brain development."
As far as treatment goes, therapy is often used. In some cases, when high dopamine is a result of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, medication is used to manage symptoms in conjunction with therapy.
If you suspect you might have higher levels of dopamine, you can pay attention to some common indicators. Here are seven interesting signs you have naturally high levels of dopamine, according to experts.
1. You Seek Pleasure-Focused Behaviors
High levels of dopamine are also associated with addictive, pleasure-focused behaviors. This can include anything from alcohol use, to struggles with gambling too much. "This is because dopamine within the limbic system is related to pleasure, motivation, and learning through positive reinforcement," clinical psychologist Crystal I. Lee, Psy.D. tells Bustle. If any of these behaviors are becoming a problem for you, speaking with a therapist or seeking treatment may be the best course of action.
2. You Are Very Extroverted
People with high levels of dopamine tend to be very extroverted. "Extroversion is partially a trait that results from the individual feeling a sense of reward from interacting socially with others," says Saltz. "The socialness is an incentive, and they respond with dopamine to that incentive that then feels rewarding."
3. You Experience Mania
Mania and hypomania are associated with high levels of dopamine. "These individuals have a range of symptoms, such as decreased need for sleep, pressured speech and/or becoming significantly more talkative, racing thoughts, being easily distracted, feelings of grandiosity, psychomotor agitation, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities despite the high potential for painful consequences," says Lee. Because manic episodes are often associated with bipolar disorder, it is important to speak with a therapist or loved one if you notice these symptoms.
4. You Feel Suspicious Or Paranoid
People with unusually high levels of dopamine are sometimes suspicious and paranoid. "If this sounds similar to someone with schizophrenia, then you're right," says Lee. "Individuals with schizophrenia have high levels of dopamine (among other neurological differences). Other symptoms of high levels of dopamine are hallucinations and delusions." If you or someone you know is experiencing paranoia or hallucinations, talking with a doctor or therapist can be the first step to finding help.
5. You Often React To Things With Intense Excitement
Someone with high levels of dopamine reacts with high levels of excitement, especially when presented with a goal. "Winning is another clear cut incentive with clear reward, and the person with big dopamine release feels a lot of excitement and pleasure," says Saltz. "Everyone likes winning, but some people crave it, hence the potential for a gambling addiction, for example."
6. You Have Constipation
Dopamine can also affect your physical wellbeing as well. "Constipation is something that can happen if your dopamine levels are too high," clinical psychologist Jennifer Sweeton, Psy.D., M.S., M.A. tells Bustle. While there are many other causes of constipation, take note and speak with your doctor if it is accompanied by any of the other symptoms mentioned.
7. You Engage In Emotional Eating
People with high levels of dopamine also tend to engage in emotional eating. "You may notice that you're particularly motivated to seek out comfort foods when you're upset or stressed," says Sweeton. This again has to do with the need to seek reward.
High dopamine levels can have its benefits and risks, but if you suspect you might have high levels of the neurotransmitter, you should see a psychiatrist who can help diagnose you.