Address dopamine exhaustion with a nootropic supplement

Technology simplifies our lives and social media helps keep us connected but these technological advancements are also having detrimental effects on our health by causing conditions like dopamine exhaustion. This is how a nootropic supplement can help…

The fast pace of our always-on, digitally-connected lives can prove stressful and draining but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The way social media pulls us in and keeps us scrolling is contributing to these feelings of exhaustion and burnout.

Plagued by chronic fatigue, listlessness and rising levels of anxiety and depression, many people don’t feel like they are living up to their true potential or performing at their best at work, home, in the gym or at sport.

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The dopamine connection

One factor feeding into this lack of energy and the rise in negative feelings and emotions is a condition known as dopamine exhaustion or burnout.

While these are not formally recognised medical terms, the concept has gained traction in discussions surrounding the potential negative effects of technology and social media overuse.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that is associated with pleasure, mood and emotional regulation, as well as motivation, learning and memory, movement and, critically to this discussion, reward.

This chemical messenger, often called the feel-good hormone, carries signals between nerve cells in the brain and it is released in response to any type of reward, and by a large number of strongly additive drugs.

Its main role is to modulate behaviour – we get a surge of dopamine when we experience pleasure from new experiences, especially social interactions, when we learn new things, and from achievement.

It feels good when dopamine gets nerves firing in the brain, which reinforces behaviours, encouraging us to take action and keeps us motivated to chase that feeling, which is good, up to a point.

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The dopamine loop

The issue we face in modern society in that we’re all overstimulated. We receive constant notifications and updates from apps, and social media algorithms serve up a steady stream of content on our feeds.

Every notification, like, curated Insta pic and catchy TikTok video stimulates a hit of dopamine, which keeps us engaged and scrolling for more – we’ve all been sucked into the social media wormhole before, only to emerge hours later.

This is the dopamine-driven feedback loop – also known as a compulsion loop – and we experience it every day, multiple times a day. It has led to the rise of issues like digital dependency and social media and technology addiction.

But when we spend our days chasing these dopamine rewards, our receptors lose sensitivity to this powerful neurotransmitter. That’s when dopamine exhaustion or burnout sets in.

When we become desensitised to dopamine, we may experience symptoms that can include a lack of motivation and interest in activities, diminished feelings of gratification, decreased energy levels, difficulty initiating tasks, changes in mood and emotional, and cognitive difficulties, including difficulty with memory, attention, and problem-solving.

Breaking the loop

There are a few ways to break the dopamine-driven feedback loop that keeps us hooked to our devices and leaves us feeling worse off, rather than more fulfilled.

Step 1: Do a digital detox

Digital detoxing or ‘dopamine fasts’ are growing health trends globally, with some studies finding positive intervention effects. A digital detox can last days or may even entail simply setting healthy boundaries around your device and social media use.

Step 2: Create a counter-movement

Regain control of your impulse to check your phone or mindlessly scroll through your feed by creating a counter-movement – a physical action that becomes a conditioned response triggered by your digital dependence. An example is turning off your phone when you realise that you are in a dopamine loop, or putting it down and going for a walk.

Step 3: Engage in non-digital activities

Prioritise real-life social interaction, exercise, hobbies, and getting out in nature over time spent scrolling through social media or engaging via devices.

Step 4: Eat to support dopamine production

Consume more protein as the amino acid tyrosine plays a critical role in dopamine production, but limit animal-based sources that are high in saturated fat as research links high-fat diets with reduced dopamine release and re-uptake.

Step 5: Get adequate sleep

Getting enough sleep in terms of quality and duration is vital as sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy dopamine function and sensitivity. When we sleep, the brain clears and recycles dopamine, which can optimise availability during the day.

The nootropics solution

Nootropic supplements may also help to restore dopamine sensitivity and support production to address the exhaustion or burnout.

While research is ongoing and often preliminary, some ingredients included in nootropic supplements show promise in potentially influencing levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which is also important for mood and emotional regulation and cognitive function.


These ingredients include:

  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT): This bioavailable form of the amino acid L-tyrosine is a precursor of dopamine (and norepinephrine, another important neurotransmitter), which may counteract decreases in neurotransmitter function and production.
  • Lion’s mane: A small study in mice found that a Lion’s Mane supplement increased dopamine and serotonin production in stressed mice, but human trials are needed to confirm this effect.
  • Bacopa monnieri: A 2021 study noted a “significant recovery” in dopamine levels in mice treated with the Bacopa monnieri Wettst extract.
  • Alpha-GPC: In a study that found Alpha-GPC increased motivation levels in human subjects, the researchers linked the effect to studies that show this compound increases dopamine and serotonin levels in rat studies.
  • Huperzine A: By acting as a cholinesterase inhibitor, Huperzine A helps to improve levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help reduce addictive behaviour, according to one study.

While specific ingredients in nootropic supplements hold promise in influencing serotonin and dopamine levels, individual responses may vary due to factors like genetics, overall health, and other medications.

Consult with a healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms outlined in this article. It is always best to combine any nootropic supplement with beneficial lifestyle changes including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep to improve your overall wellness, boost your performance, and reach your true potential.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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