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What Is Endorphin Deficiency?

Jennifer Long
Jennifer Long

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.

Endorphin deficiency disorder symptoms are similar to those associated with depressive disorders.
Endorphin deficiency disorder symptoms are similar to those associated with depressive disorders.

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 may involve monitoring brain functions.
Diagnosing an endorphin deficiency may involve monitoring brain functions.

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.

Protein and vitamins are used to tread an endorphin deficiency.
Protein and vitamins are used to tread an endorphin deficiency.

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.

Discussion Comments


It has been almost 20 years since a smart doctor diagnosed me with EDS! I learned the hard way how to deal with it. I tried so many things until I was medicated with morphine. Since I have been taking small doses of morphine every day, I have no problems anymore.

You can minimize the need for morphine almost to a homeopathic level. During the times when you do lots of sports and have very little stress, it's easy to cut down the morphine doses to a real minimum. Then, if you are under stress and facing emotional problems, like the death of a beloved person, you can increase your morphine doses, but as soon as you work through this difficult time, you can lower your morphine consumption.


You can also take methadone in low doses. This makes you feel normal, not high.


Does anybody know if there is a connection between endorphin deficiency disorder and vegetarians or vegans?

When the article mentioned something about making sure you get enough protein in your diet, I wondered if my sister might have this problem.

Ever since she started eating a vegetarian diet, she has seemed so depressed and down and doesn't have the energy she used to.

She thinks she is getting enough protein in her diet, but I can't think of any other changes she has made that might cause this.

She has always been faithful at exercising on a regular basis and eating healthy foods. It makes me wonder if the lack of protein has something to do with it.


I don't know if the testing for acquired endorphin deficiency disorder is the same as it is for a genetic disorder, but I had to go through some testing for this a few months ago.

This ominous, down feeling is something I have struggled with my whole life. After I had the brain imaging testing done, I was told this was a genetic endorphin deficiency disorder.

As far as I know, nobody in my family has this, but maybe they aren't recognizing it. I just know it was a relief to finally know the reason for this feeling, and that I could do something about it.

Although I will probably always struggle with this, I have learned to keep it under better control. I take medications on a regular basis, try to get plenty of exercise and as much sunlight as I can.

I do notice when I am under a lot of stress that my symptoms are worse. Acknowledging this is one of the best ways to do something about it so it doesn't take over my whole life.


Although I was never given an official diagnosis of endorphin deficiency disorder, I am almost positive this was my problem a few years ago.

I had several negative, major life events that happened to me within a period of a few months. I lost both of my parents, and had a job change that moved me across the country where I had no family or friends.

During a time when I really needed a close support system, I didn't have anyone. I felt too overwhelmed and down to go out and try to make new friends.

The best thing I did was join a health club and an early morning exercise class. Between the exercise and meeting some new friends, I was able to slowly climb out of my depression.

As I was better able to cope with things, my stress level also declined. I am now a firm believer in how important exercise, and getting a constant supply of endorphins in our bodies, can make a big difference in our outlook on life.


Until reading this article, I never realized there was an actual endorphin deficiency disorder.

Ever since I started exercising, I have been aware of endorphins, and the effect they have on our bodies. Some studies even show that the endorphins that are released when exercising are more powerful than anti-depressant drugs.

That is saying quite a lot. I know after I have been exercising for a certain number of minutes, I can really feel the endorphins kick in. They really uplift my mood and give me a positive feeling that stays with me for several hours.

That must be why the lack of endorphins is linked to depression. It is interesting how our bodies respond to exercise - even if it is only a 15 minute brisk walk.


@wavy58 – I've never had an actual serious endorphin deficiency, but I do know that what you put into your body affects what you get out of it. I have gone through depressing lulls where I felt just terrible physically and emotionally, and even small things helped stimulate my endorphin production.

Sometimes,when I have a sadness come upon me for no reason, I find that drinking a caffeinated soda improves my mood. The caffeine boosts the level of endorphins in my body, and I just start to feel happy again. Chocolate can have the same effect.

Also, I always feel better after a workout. Even doing chores around the house can energize me, so actual aerobics really make me feel good.


I was able to overcome my endorphin deficiency by changing my diet and exercise routine. For months after my breakup with my boyfriend, I sat in my apartment and cried while eating junk food and watching TV.

I had no motivation for life. I totally stopped exercising, because my soul's ache seemed to spill over into my body, and I had no energy to expend.

As soon as I heard about an endorphin deficiency on a talk show as I sat there like a couch potato, I listened closely. The expert recommended eating more vitamin-packed vegetables and fruit and doing even a moderate amount of exercise.

So, I started eating spinach salad every day at lunch. I would eat a banana and whole grain cereal for breakfast, and I would include lean meat in both my noontime and evening meals.

I also started taking a fifteen minute walk outside every day. In just a week, I felt so much better. I felt like me again, and I believe that my endorphin increase was responsible for my recovery.


Wow, I think that I have an endorphin deficiency! I had never heard of this before, though I knew what endorphins were.

I went through a period of major stress in my early twenties, and even though the stressor is no longer in my life, I am still suffering the effects of it. My body hurts with a pain that I can't pinpoint to one specific location, and my anxiety and adrenaline seem to be stuck in the “on” position.

I succumb easily to things that would not hurt a normal person. I have tried exercising more, but this just makes my body ache even worse. I think I need to see a doctor!


My best friend is a hairstylist, and one of her clients has an endorphin deficiency. She cries every time that she starts talking to my friend about her life.

It is an unspoken part of a hairstylist's job to make small talk while doing someone's hair, and my friend always hates to see this poor woman coming. Even a question as simple as, “How are you?” sets her off.

The woman recently told my friend that her doctor had finally discovered what was wrong with her. She started taking medication for the endorphin deficiency on the same day that she last came to have her hair done, and my friend really hopes that it will work for her.


My brother had an addiction to opioids (also called opiates) because of an endorphin deficiency. He was first given a medication with opioids in the hospital after a very painful surgery. He was feeling great at that time but when he was released and didn't have the opioids anymore, the pain and bad mood really got to him.

He got a hold of the drugs on his own and became addicted to them. He used to say that they gave him a sense of well being and helped a lot with the pain. This is basically what the job of endorphin is in the body.

With the whole family's support, he got tested and was diagnosed with an endorphin deficiency. As soon as he was supplemented with endorphin, he was able to quit the opioids cold turkey.

I think endoprhin deficiency might be more widespread than doctors realize. There are so many people who are abusing illegal and legal drugs to feel "better." Maybe they're just dealing with an endorphin deficiency like my brother.


@ddljohn-- That's possible. You see, endorphin, serotonin, and dopamine are all related to one another. Serotonin- the chemical which gives us the feeling of happiness- is usually what is lacking in individuals who are suffering from depression and anxiety. Anti-depressants target balancing out serotonin levels in the brain.

If one of these chemicals are imbalanced, like serotonin, it's not unlikely that the others could be imbalanced as well.

I'm sure your doctor can direct you in the right direction if you want to get tested for this. They could probably test levels of all three of these chemicals and see if there is an imbalance in any of the three.


The article mentions manic depression and bipolar disorder when talking about other conditions that have similar symptoms to an endorphin deficiency. But I believe that these are psychosis disorders. So they are much more serious than regular depression or anxiety.

What I'm curious about is if endorphin deficiency could also be a cause of more mild depression symptoms?

I've been suffering from mild depression and anxiety since my teens and have been using medications on and off because of it. My mood is generally bad, even while on medications. I have mood swings often, suffer from a lot of body aches and have low tolerance to stressful situations and illness.

Could I be suffering from an endorphin deficiency? And how easily accessible is the testing equipment for this condition?

I had never heard of this equipment before now. And doctors have never recommended it to me so I don't know.

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