Dopamine and Reward Deficiency Syndrome (Lack Of Pleasure)

dopamine dopamine healthy habits

Do you sometimes feel that you are not happy enough, even at times when good things happen to you?

Well stick around because today we are going to talk about dopamine and something called reward deficiency syndrome.

Studies show that about 25% of people are born with a small gene variation that robs the reward center of dopamine receptors.

Not all the receptors are missing of course but about one in 4 people are born with a few less receptors then the rest of the population.

What does a dopamine receptor do?

Now, those of you who have been following my videos know that the receptors are what makes us feel whatever dopamine we have, and if you have less receptors in the reward center, then you are left with a lower baseline level of pleasure, or happiness, in life. 

This gene variation is called “reward deficiency syndrome”. 

How do you know if you have it?

So now some of you are probably asking “how do I know if I have it?” 

Well, before you freak out here and start diagnosing yourself, you should know that this does not have to be some horrible thing, and I’ll tell you what to do about it in a moment. 

But, I have to agree that, yes it IS a bit unfair because you don’t want to have a lower baseline level of happiness than your friends do, right?...I mean that kind of sucks!  

Unfortunately mother nature and biology don’t really care about being fair. 

Here are some signs...

25% is a pretty big part of the population and people with this gene variation have a harder time feeling feelings of excitement and joy - and it is not uncommon to hear people with this gene variation say things like...

...“I don’t know if I have ever really been in love with someone. I mean I have liked people very much, but I’m not exactly sure how it feels to fall in love”

Also, for people in this group the normal course of life feels a bit more gray and they often find that their friends are more excited than they are. 

 Higher risk of developing an addiction...

This is also why people with this gene variation have a much higher risk of developing an addiction than other people, simply because if the reward center is not receiving  enough input, you are genetically predisposed to be constantly craving.

Relentlessly searching for SOME way to compensate for the deficit. Now don’t freak out if you think you belong in this group because it does by no means guarantee you’ll end up as an addict, but it is more likely.

Also, because the neurotransmitters in the reward system are out of balance, people with the reward deficiency syndrome also have a more active stress center, making them more prone to anxiety problems.

What can you do about it?

So what can you do about all this if you think you might belong to those 25% of people.?

Well, I personally have reward deficiency syndrome and here is what I recommend…

Step 1) Realize that it is not dangerous, it is just that you probably are a bit more prone to depression and anxiety than some of your friends. And the difference does not have to be huge, but it can be noticeable.

Step 2)  Exercise. All form of exercise increase dopamine receptors BUT running is especially good because the pounding of running activates the endocannabinoid receptors in the skin which also helps us feel more joy, oh and those are a key player in “runners high”, by the can actually be pretty potent stuff.

Personally I both lift weight and I run. I have to run. I have to do it or I’ll get depressed.

If I feel a depression coming on the first thing I always ask myself is, how many days has it been since I went on a run. If the answer is "Oh, I haven’t been on a run for over a week now", well, time to put the sneakers on.

I feel best if I run 5 days in a week, but I only run for about 20 minutes, that’s enough.

Step 3) You always have to have some kind of goal you are working on. This is because of the gene variation, thoughts like “what’s the point” are more likely to start messing with you than with people who do not have this variation.

And if you have a goal or a couple of goals you are working on, your subconscious mind will make sure you “stay on track” and those negative thoughts are less likely to crop up. Just like with the exercise, here too I can say that, I have to have goals in my life...I HAVE to...

...because if I do not, I will start sinking into a depression.

Step 4) Because of the reward deficiency syndrome you have to be more careful with activities that can cause an addiction. 

If you feel a need to use  artificial dopamine raising things like alcohol, fapping, gambling and so on for recreation, just try to do so in moderation and be very careful to not get hooked. If you notice escalation and increased use then take a break or stop doing it altogether.

Step 5) Realize that it is possible to have a fantastic life even if you belong in this category. You can still enjoy life with lots of positive emotions, especially if you exercise and have goals, but also know that there will be days when ordinary life seems a bit gray and nothing really gets you going.

Just realize that we do not have to feel fantastic all of the time and that is 100% okay. 

And then lastly, remember that this is not something that we should make into a bad thing or make a big deal out of, the increased cravings for stimuli we people in this group are having can just as well be turned into something positive if we direct it the right way.

We can become maverick entrepreneurs, bold explorers, successful artists and so on. Just make sure to choose constructive ways of getting your rewards, like for example achieving goals, instead of choosing destructive addictions. 

Alright that’s it for today, I hope you found this video informative.

Thanks for reading,

-Scandinavian Bob-

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