Symptom's Associated with Abnormal Dopamine Levels

From brainmatrix

Affective Disorders and Mood[edit]

(-) Depression. Dopamine has been deemed a likely contributor to the pathophysiology of depression and other affective syndromes.1–3 Specifically, there is evidence that dopamine levels are deficient in depression.2 This evidence is bolstered by research on the effects of medications that impact the dopamine system. Namely, when dopamine is increased, symptoms of depression appear to improve.2

(+) Mania. Heightened dopamine activity appears to contribute to mania.4

(+) Fear and Paranoia. Dopamine appears to play a role in anxiety, with excessive levels of dopamine leading to paranoia, including the paranoia experienced in schizophrenia.5,6

(-/+) Stress and Irritability. Dopamine has been implicated in irritability and aggression.7,8 Given that it is converted endogenously into morphine, increased levels of dopamine could have stress-reducing effects.9 Childhood sexual abuse is associated with elevated levels of dopamine, which perhaps occur as a compensatory mechanism to mitigate the stress response.10 Increased dopamine activity has also been observed to be associated with agitated behavior in people with frontotemporal dementia.11 Exposure to psychosocial adversity over an extended period is associated with dampened dopamine function, which may occur as a result of chronically elevated dopamine levels.10


(-) Concentration and Memory. Dopamine functions to translate information related to costs and benefits into working memory allocation.12 Dopamine dysfunction is thought to underlie ADHD.13,14 Specifically, dopamine levels are thought to contribute to ADHD and the lack of attention and focus observed in the disorder.15,16 Low dopamine levels also predict poorer recall in healthy people.17 Conversely, dopamine consumption increases the rate of winning in gambling games, suggesting it may enhance the focus necessary to improve performance.18

(+/-) Creativity. Human creativity has been shown to rely on the dopaminergic system.19


(-) Motivation. Dopamine is involved in value assessment and the anticipation of reward, which may explain its role in motivation and motivated behaviors.8,20–22 Patients with Parkinson’s disease – thought to be caused by deficient dopamine – are often apathetic. Research into the link between Parkinson’s and motivation has revealed that dopamine appears to be particularly important for motivating high effort/high reward behaviors.3,23

(+/-) Risk-Taking. Increased dopamine levels are associated with emotional dysregulation and impulsivity.8,22 Heightened dopamine levels are thought to enhance the expectations of pleasure and the subjective evaluation of hedonic experiences.24 When dopamine levels are increased in people with bipolar disorder, these people are more likely to choose high-risk options.20

  • Tendency Toward Substance Abuse. It may be through similar mechanisms that increased dopamine levels lead to addictive behaviors.5 Dopamine has a role in the processing of the addictive characteristics of drugs, and low levels of dopamine contribute to drug seeking and alcohol seeking behaviors.8 However, both lower and higher levels of dopamine activity can contribute to substance abuse.8
  • Tendency Toward Gaming and Gambling. As with substance use disorders, gaming and gambling are associated with increased dopamine during gaming and gambling behaviors that results in the down regulation of dopamine and eventually low dopamine levels.25
  • Tendency Toward Promiscuous Sexual Behavior. Dopamine is also implicated in sexual promiscuity and infidelity. 26 As with the other contexts, the heightened dopamine release that occurs with compulsive sexual behaviors can lead to down regulation in dopamine.25
  • Tendency Toward Eating Disorders. Both heightened and lowered dopamine levels are associated with eating disorders.25 In the case of the former, elevated levels likely occur in response to the stress of calorie restriction, whereas low levels are linked to anhedonia. In cases of binge eating, the stimulation of dopamine can result in dopamine signal impairment, which occurs progressively.

Physical Symptoms[edit]

(-) Restless Leg Syndrome. While the pathogenesis of restless leg syndrome is not entirely clear, it is generally agreed that the most likely cause is reduced dopamine signaling.27 People on medication for restless leg syndrome have been shown to have increased blood plasma levels of dopamine, which suggests that impacting the dopamine system may improve restless leg syndrome symptoms.

(-) Tremor. People with Parkinson’s disease suffer from tremors, which appear to often involve low dopamine levels.28

(-/+) Fatigue. Dopamine is heavily implicated in fatigue, particularly when it occurs in certain disorders like multiple sclerosis. However, how dopamine contributes to fatigue is not entirely clear, as fatigue appears to result from an imbalance in dopamine rather than because of excessively low or high levels of the neurotransmitter.29


1. Brown AS, Gershon S. Dopamine and depression. J Neural Transm Gen Sect. 1993;91(2-3):75-109. doi:10.1007/BF01245227

2. Diehl DJ, Gershon S. The role of dopamine in mood disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 1992;33(2):115-120. doi:10.1016/0010-440X(92)90007-D

3. Rizvi SJ, Pizzagalli DA, Sproule BA, Kennedy SH. Assessing anhedonia in depression: Potentials and pitfalls. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016;65:21. doi:10.1016/J.NEUBIOREV.2016.03.004

4. Ashok AH, Marques TR, Jauhar S, et al. The dopamine hypothesis of bipolar affective disorder: the state of the art and implications for treatment. Mol Psychiatry. 2017;22(5):666-679. doi:10.1038/MP.2017.16

5. Fear Factor: Dopamine May Fuel Dread, Too - Scientific American. Accessed April 2, 2022.

6. Krieckhaus EE, Donahoe JW, Morgan MA. Paranoid schizophrenia may be caused by dopamine hyperactivity of CA1 hippocampus. Biol Psychiatry. 1992;31(6):560-570. doi:10.1016/0006-3223(92)90242-R

7. Leibenluft E, Stoddard J. The developmental psychopathology of irritability. Dev Psychopathol. 2013;25(4 0 2):1473. doi:10.1017/S0954579413000722

8. Seo D, Patrick CJ, Kennealy PJ. Role of serotonin and dopamine system interactions in the neurobiology of impulsive aggression and its comorbidity with other clinical disorders. Aggress Violent Behav. 2008;13(5):383. doi:10.1016/J.AVB.2008.06.003

9. Esch T, Stefano G. The neurobiology of stress management. Neuro Endocrinology Letters. 2013;31(1):19-39.

10. Bloomfield MA, McCutcheon RA, Kempton M, Freeman TP, Howes O. The effects of psychosocial stress on dopaminergic function and the acute stress response. Elife. 2019;8. doi:10.7554/ELIFE.46797

11. Engelborghs S, Vloeberghs E, le Bastard N, et al. The dopaminergic neurotransmitter system is associated with aggression and agitation in frontotemporal dementia. Neurochem Int. 2008;52(6):1052-1060. doi:10.1016/J.NEUINT.2007.10.018

12. Westbrook A, Braver TS. Dopamine does double duty in motivating cognitive effort. Neuron. 2016;89(4):695. doi:10.1016/J.NEURON.2015.12.029

13. Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Newcorn J, et al. Brain dopamine transporter levels in treatment and drug naïve adults with ADHD. Neuroimage. 2007;34(3):1182-1190. doi:10.1016/J.NEUROIMAGE.2006.10.014

14. Kollins SH, Adcock RA. ADHD, altered dopamine neurotransmission, and disrupted reinforcement processes: Implications for smoking and nicotine dependence. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014;0:70. doi:10.1016/J.PNPBP.2014.02.002

15. Gold MS, Blum K, Oscar-Berman M, Braverman ER. Low dopamine function in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Should genotyping signify early diagnosis in children? Postgrad Med. 2014;126(1):153. doi:10.3810/PGM.2014.01.2735

16. Madras BK, Miller GM, Fischman AJ. The dopamine transporter and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biol Psychiatry. 2005;57(11):1397-1409. doi:10.1016/J.BIOPSYCH.2004.10.011

17. Oades RD, Röpcke B, Henning U, Klimke A. Neuropsychological measures of attention and memory function in schizophrenia: relationships with symptom dimensions and serum monoamine activity. Behav Brain Funct. 2005;1. doi:10.1186/1744-9081-1-14

18. Arias-Carrián O, Stamelou M, Murillo-Rodríguez E, Menéndez-Gonzlez M, Pöppel E. Dopaminergic reward system: a short integrative review. International Archives of Medicine. 2010;3(1):24. doi:10.1186/1755-7682-3-24

19. Zabelina DL, Colzato L, Beeman M, Hommel B. Dopamine and the creative mind: individual differences in creativity are predicted by interactions between dopamine genes DAT and COMT. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(1). doi:10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0146768

20. Ironside ML, Johnson SL, Carver CS. Identity in bipolar disorder: Self-worth and achievement. J Pers. 2020;88(1):45. doi:10.1111/JOPY.12461

21. Baik JH. Stress and the dopaminergic reward system. Experimental & Molecular Medicine. 2020;52(12):1879. doi:10.1038/S12276-020-00532-4

22. Schlüter T, Winz O, Henkel K, et al. The impact of dopamine on aggression: An [18F]-FDOPA PET study in healthy males. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2013;33(43):16889. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1398-13.2013

23. le Heron C, Plant O, Manohar S, et al. Distinct effects of apathy and dopamine on effort-based decision-making in Parkinson’s disease. Brain. 2018;141(5):1455-1469. doi:10.1093/BRAIN/AWY110

24. Sharot T, Shiner T, Brown AC, Fan J, Dolan RJ. Dopamine enhances expectation of pleasure in humans. Current Biology. 2009;19(24):2077. doi:10.1016/J.CUB.2009.10.025

25. Worley J. The role of pleasure neurobiology and dopamine in mental health disorders. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2017;55(9):17-21. doi:10.3928/02793695-20170818-09

26. Garcia JR, Mackillop J, Aller EL, Merriwether AM, Wilson DS, Lum JK. Associations between dopamine D4 receptor gene variation with both infidelity and sexual promiscuity. PLoS ONE. 2010;5(11). doi:10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0014162

27. Mitchell UH, Obray JD, Hunsaker E, et al. Peripheral dopamine in restless legs syndrome. Front Neurol. 2018;9(MAR). doi:10.3389/FNEUR.2018.00155

28. Waln O, Wu Y, Perlman R, Wendt J, Van AK, Jankovic J. Dopamine transporter imaging in essential tremor with and without parkinsonian features. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2015;122(11):1515-1521. doi:10.1007/S00702-015-1419-Z

29. Dobryakova E, Genova HM, DeLuca J, Wylie GR. The dopamine imbalance hypothesis of fatigue in multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders. Frontiers in Neurology. 2015;6(MAR). doi:10.3389/FNEUR.2015.00052/ABSTRACT