Among those afflicted with one or more episodes of major depression, there are differences in the kinds of symptoms experienced. Some individuals feel sad, empty, or hopeless. Others lose interest in almost all activities. One’s appetite may decrease or increase. One may have difficulty sleeping or sleep excessively. One may behave restlessly or become lethargic.
While depression is often treated pharmacologically with SSRI medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, or Paxil which increase serotonin, there is research to support that symptoms of depression may also be associated with reduced levels of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. While those who struggle with worry that keeps them awake at night often benefit from SSRI medication, symptoms associated with Dopamine Deficient Depression include sleepiness, excessive sleeping, chronic fatigue, slow thinking, reduced motivation, apathy, social withdrawal, low libido, blunted affect, and boredom.
Individuals with Dopamine Deficient Depression may not feel very anxious and probably won’t have trouble sleeping, but they will have trouble getting going in the morning. While they may not feel sad or overly anxious, they may not experience many feelings of joy, excitement, or happiness either. Their speech may be monotone, and they may appear emotionally flat.
While individuals low in serotonin may crave carbs, those low in dopamine are more likely to prefer stimulating foods including chocolate and coffee. And they may strive to stimulate the dopaminergic system with alcohol, drugs, sex, or any behavior that may help them to feel less blunted, more alive.
Treatment for low dopamine includes dietary changes, certain herbs and supplements, exercise, and medication.
Foods containing dopamine building amino acids include almonds, avocados, bananas, dark chocolate, eggs, salmon, sardines, poultry, oats, lima beans, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Antioxidants that help to maintain levels of dopamine are found in many fruits and vegetables including apples and strawberries. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants.
Foods to avoid include those high in sugar, cholesterol, and saturated fats which can interfere with proper brain function and cause low dopamine.
Medications that may be prescribed to increase dopamine include Wellbutrin. For some individuals in whom low dopamine also causes anxiety, a psychostimulant such as Adderall may also be helpful. And there are also several herbal supplements which may be prescribed by a physician.
Therapy which includes both cognitive-behavioral and somatic treatment procedures is always extremely important for all individuals struggling with depression.