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Effects of Dopamine on Bipolar Disorder

By Jamie Simpson ; Updated August 14, 2017

Bipolar disorder brings a broad swath of psychological and physiological effects to those who have it, yet the effects of individual elements on bipolar disorder are not always well understood, according to “Bipolar Disorders.” Seeking a deeper understanding of how the various neurotransmitters, including dopamine, impact the course of bipolar disorder can help both patients and family members come to a better understanding of treatment options and brain-body chemistry.

Exacerbation of Depression

According to the Lundbeck Institute, dopamine falls into the monoamine class of neurotransmitters, which have been linked to mood changes as their levels change. In particular, Lundbeck Institute notes that depleted levels of dopamine may cause a depressed mood state to occur. Within the context of bipolar disorder, this low level of dopamine contributes to the loss of motivation that can lead to a depressive incident if the level drops low enough, according to Lundbeck Institute.

Trigger of Manic Episodes

While low levels of dopamine can contribute to depressive incidents, Lundbeck Institute also notes that hyperactivity in dopamine receptors can set off a manic incident. Monitoring key levels of dopamine and dopamine agonists can provide guides as to whether or not a potential manic episode is imminent. However, Newsweek notes that attempting to suppress dopamine levels can lead to the brain increasing its level of dopamine receptors, providing even more opportunities for elevated levels in the future and an increased vulnerability to the manic state.

Pathway to Mood Swings

According to Newsweek, one of the main dopamine traits is the regulation of mood. As a result, as dopamine levels fluctuate, it can lead to broad changes in mood even if a full depressive or manic episode is not triggered, a conclusion supported by data at Drugs.com on the potential interactions of dopamine on the body.

Increase in Overall Severity of the Disorder

Dopamine, in addition to being naturally present in the body, can be used as a treatment for a number of physical traumas, according to Drugs.com. The introduction of additional dopamine to the system can interact with other neurotransmitter levels and amplify symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, increasing the overall severity of the disorder.

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