Endorphin deficiency is a condition that occurs when chemicals that are produced naturally by the brain, called endorphins, are not made in high enough amounts. This can be because of genetic or acquired reasons. Endorphins are used by the body as a type of mood and pain regulator, and they help people feel joy, contentment, and general well-being. A deficiency causes depression, chronic unexplained pain, and a low tolerance for pain. In many instances, low levels are misdiagnosed as depressive disorders.
Also known as endorphin deficiency disorder (EDS), a deficiency of endorphins can be difficult for medical professionals to diagnose initially until testing shows the lack of these chemicals. Many of the symptoms associated with EDS are similar to the symptoms that occur in depressive disorders, such as manic depression and bipolar disorder. Depression, chronic or intermittent, and general body aches are the two most common symptoms, and a person may also have a tendency to cry without a logical reason or feel pain more easily. EDS makes it difficult for people to be generally happy in their lives.
A genetic deficiency is a type of EDS that a person is born with, in which the brain doesn't release endorphins as it should from the time of birth. People with a genetic deficiency are more likely to be emotionally over-sensitive. Despite the sufferer’s best efforts, every step of normal life has an ominous feel.
An acquired deficiency is generally temporary, and it is often caused by too much physical or emotional pain, stress, and a lack of adequate exercise. Stress and pain are often triggers for endorphin production, but too much exposure results in an over-production, which depletes the supply quickly before the brain can produce more. Exercising stimulates the production of many chemicals, including endorphins, with a corresponding lack of proper exercise reducing production.
Diagnosing an endorphin deficiency involves different forms of testing. Brain function is commonly monitored using imaging equipment. The patient is set up to perform various tasks and experience exposure to pain or stress in order to map the brain’s production of endorphins. Deficiencies will appear on imaging following the tasks that are known to trigger production increases.
Treating a deficiency involves several techniques. For genetic deficiencies, prescription and over-the-counter medications can help balance the production of endorphins. Both types of deficiencies can be treated by increasing protein intake and adding vitamin supplements. Plenty of exercise and a decrease in stress or pain exposure are also recommended, particularly for an acquired deficiency.