What’s the Difference Between Dopamine and Serotonin?
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Dopamine and serotonin are commonly referred to as happy hormones because they keep our moods and emotions in check. But these neurotransmitters have various other functions, from digestion to sleep. While dopamine and serotonin may have similar roles, they do things differently. This article walks you through all the differences between dopamine vs serotonin and how they affect your overall health.
What is dopamine?
When you experience a surge of motivation, it is such a rush, isn’t it? Well, dopamine is behind this feeling. In fact, the emotions and satisfaction you go through after achieving a goal or completing a set task are because of dopamine.
Dopamine is released by neurons in the brain to create norepinephrine and epinephrine. Some of the bodily functions influenced by dopamine are;
- Blood flow
- Urine output
Conditions associated with dopamine
Depression is one of the most common conditions associated with dopamine. Experts suggest that a few symptoms, such as low motivation, feeling helpless, and losing interest in the things you love, can be due to a faulty dopamine system. This can be due to stress, pain, or trauma. Dysfunction in the production of dopamine may also lead to;
- Aches and pains
- Low energy
- Low self-esteem
- Losing your balance
- Losing weight
- Gaining weight
- Muscle cramps
- Mood swings
- Unable to focus
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Low motivation
- Disturbed sleep
Another condition associated with dopamine is schizophrenia. A few symptoms of this condition can be delusions and hallucinations due to the high dopamine levels.
Parkinson’s disease is also linked to low dopamine levels, leading to disruptions in movement. Besides this, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is connected to dopamine.
Finally, dopamine also has a hand in addictions. These happy hormones are released during almost every pleasurable activity, from eating a delicious meal to sex. This release is why we tend to get addicted, and it doesn’t take long for the brain to link certain activities with the dopamine rush.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a chemical messenger that sends signals between the nerve cells and is found throughout the nervous system. It also plays a key role in stabilising your mood. Made from the essential amino acid tryptophan, eating serotonin-rich food is how it enters the system. It is commonly found in eggs, dairy products, nuts, and meat. Serotonin is vital for your body, from helping you with your emotions to ensuring proper digestion.
Conditions associated with serotonin
According to a review, serotonin was associated with several conditions, such as anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and bipolar disorder. It can also lead to other issues, which include;
- Low mood
- Problems with memory
- Poor appetite
- Sleep problems
- Weak impulse control
In fact, it is seen that social anxiety disorder can be due to reduced serotonin binding to postsynaptic neurons. Another anxiety disorder that occurs due to low serotonin binding is an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Differences Between Dopamine and Serotonin
As you can see, dopamine and serotonin feel similar. But there are distinct differences that separate the two. One main difference between serotonin vs dopamine is that dopamine sends signals to control movements and balance. It is also responsible for managing the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. Some also confuse oxytocin with dopamine. But that’s not the case. Dopamine vs serotonin vs oxytocin all have different functions.
Certain activities can give you a dopamine rush and make you feel almost euphoric. Therefore indulging in activities that elevate dopamine levels instantly can become addictive, such as shopping or gambling.
Just like dopamine, serotonin is also known to regulate mood. However, it also takes care of your digestive functions, including metabolism, appetite, and more. Now you know the main distinction between what is dopamine vs serotonin.
Similarities Between Dopamine and Serotonin
The main similarity between dopamine vs serotonin is that both are neurotransmitters associated with positive functions. However, they are also neuromodulators that can interact with a variety of neurons far from the hormone release site. The signals sent by these neurotransmitters tend to last longer when compared to others.
Do Serotonin and Dopamine Work Together?
These neurotransmitters don’t act alone and are correlated to each other structurally and functionally. For instance, low serotonin levels can elevate dopamine production leading to impulsiveness. They also tend to have opposite effects on your eating habits. While serotonin subdues your appetite, dopamine can enhance it.
Impact of Serotonin and Dopamine on Sleep
The pineal gland present in the brain is responsible for stimulating our sleep-wake cycle. From the signals received from the eyes, it interprets light and darkness and produces melatonin at night to ensure you feel the onset of sleep. This gland is associated with both serotonin and dopamine.
Dopamine is connected to wakefulness. Low levels of dopamine can make you sleepy. In fact, it can stop the effects of norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter that aids the production and release of the sleep hormone, melatonin. So, less melatonin may be released when the brain is influenced by dopamine at night.
Now coming to serotonin, its role in regulating sleep is complex. While serotonin is essential for a proper sleep cycle, it can also keep you from enjoying a good night’s rest. Here, serotonin’s behaviour entirely depends on its location, where it is released, the receptor it connects with, and much more!
However, serotonin plays a crucial role in REM sleep, and too much serotonin can reduce the REM sleep cycle. Still, serotonin is essential for the release of melatonin. But it must come from the pineal gland.
You now know everything about dopamine and serotonin. They are two vital neurotransmitters for your overall physical and mental well-being. It is always imperative to maintain a proper balance between the two.
Which is better dopamine or serotonin?
Both are essential for our overall well-being. While dopamine can produce pleasurable sensations, serotonin can elevate happiness. This is why they are known as happy hormones.
How do I know if I need serotonin or dopamine?
When there is an imbalance with dopamine, you will experience depression and a sense of hopelessness. However, when the serotonin levels are faulty, it adversely affects emotional processing.
Is depression low in dopamine or serotonin?
Depression occurs due to an imbalance in the levels of dopamine.
Are endorphins the same as dopamine?
No, dopamine vs serotonin vs endorphins is all different where endorphins are like natural painkillers produced by the body.
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