The way we feel is dictated by several factors and a new study suggests that chronic low-grade inflammation might be one of them. According to a paper called “Can’t or Won’t? Immunometabolic Constraints on Dopaminergic Drive,” published by Trends in Cognitive Sciences from scientists at Emory University, our brain’s dopamine system which is the engine behind our motivation and our chronic inflammation are directly linked causing motivational impairments.
This theory is key for the endometriosis community as it explains why so many of us feel so unmotivated most of the time. If we put these findings into our endometriosis perspective, we will understand better how our bodies are constantly fighting a chronic inflammation which is causing a chain reaction that reduces the brain’s supply of dopamine required for the reward-driven motivation.
The paper proposes that the connection of dopamine levels, motivation and inflammation is “an adaptive mechanism to help the body conserve energy,” which means that when our immune system is elevated, our levels of dopamine and motivation drop. This adaptive mechanism conserves the body’s energy in periods of severe distress while the immune system works to stop the inflammation.
Because our dopamine levels are being compromised, we feel less motivated to do simple activities that require energy like getting out of bed, working, exercising, dancing, etc. With endometriosis it is like a never-ending cycle because we are in a constant state of inflammation therefore our body is responding to it by preserving its energy and dropping our ability to be motivated.
Michael Treadway is the first author of this paper and an associate professor in Emory’s Department of Psychology. Michael studies the relationship between motivation and mental illness; this is what he has to say: “When your body is fighting an infection or healing a wound, your brain needs a mechanism to recalibrate your motivation to do other things so you don’t use up too much of your energy.” He also mentioned that they “now have strong evidence suggesting that the immune system disrupts the dopamine system to help the brain perform this recalibration.”
There is a lot more research that need to be done about this theory, as it could have implications for treating other illnesses. They want to get more insights into how inflammation contributes to motivational impairments in people with depression, schizophrenia, and other medical disorders.
What does this mean for my endo warriors? It is a step closer to understanding our chronic illness. Not being motivated to get out of bed might have a scientific explanation when you suffer from a chronic illness like endometriosis as it involves a chronic low-grade inflammation. They are closer to finding tangible evidence that endometriosis not only affects you physically but also mentally and emotionally.
I wanted to share this because I want to provide information so that when we talk to our doctors, we have the necessary facts to explain better how we feel, and we can get better treatment. We tend to be hard on ourselves and we ask a lot from our bodies but by being mindful of what your body can do it could help you balance your lifestyle better.
Please comment below if you think this was helpful or if you have any feedback and let’s keep the conversation going,