The chemical dopamine is produced naturally in the body and functions as a neurotransmitter, playing a role in the pleasure and reward pathway of the brain as well as in memory and motor control. When dopamine levels fall low due to drug use, poor nutrition, stress, lack of sleep and the habitual use of antidepressants, symptoms such as depression, mood swings, poor attention and food cravings can occur.
One of the principal symptoms of dopamine deficiency is depression, chronic boredom, a loss of satisfaction, apathy, chronic fatigue and low physical energy with no desire to exercise the body. The body is chilled and feet and hands become cold. Because dopamine deficiency lowers the experiencing of pleasure, moods can swing rapidly from positive to negative. To compensate for the depressed moods and lack of energy, people suffering from low dopamine levels experience cravings for stimulants and often become addicted to caffeine.
Restless Legs Syndrome
MayoClinic.com reports that research indicates restless legs syndrome may be caused by an imbalance in the brain of dopamine since dopamine is responsible for sending messages that control muscle movement. Dopamine deficiency can produce overall weakness in the body as well as muscle tremors.
Oversleeping and Low Libido
A deficiency of certain nutrients in the body, such as iron, magnesium or zinc, can produce a dopamine deficiency that results in oversleeping. Coupled with too much sleep is the lack of motivation in individuals suffering from low dopamine levels to initiate most activities, especially exercise, and a tendency to procrastinate together with a feeling that one is unable to cope with life. There is also a dulling of pleasure or the inability to feel it and a lessening of libido. If you suspect you may be suffering from dopamine deficiency, check with your doctor, for dopamine levels are easily tested with a simple dopamine blood test or a urine test and adjusted with prescribed supplements.
Rapid Weight Gain
Because low dopamine levels tend to produce cravings for sugar, sodas, alcohol and saturated fats, the result is often a rapid weight gain further encouraged by inactivity and fatigue. Added to the problem of extra weight is the fact that sugar, saturated fats and refined foods can actually lower dopamine levels and decrease its activity in the brain.
Even slightly low levels of dopamine can interfere with a person’s ability to concentrate and focus. Intense feelings of sadness due to a lack of this neurotransmitter to correctly regulate emotions can interfere with the ability to pay attention, to remember or to think abstractly.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that affects balance, movement and muscle control, is associated with the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. UMMC reports that loss of dopamine in the corpus stratia of the brain is the principal defect in Parkinson’s disease and its hallmark feature. The Dana Foundation reports that people in the early stages of the disease can be successfully treated with the dopamine precursor drug levadopa, which helps replace lost dopamine, although this treatment loses its effect over time.