Endorphins may play a key role in addiction but evidence is not always specific about how it works or whether it helps much at all. Endorphins are chemicals produced in the body to help diminish pain while triggering positive feelings. Sometimes referred to as the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, it is a natural painkiller. Learn more about potential benefits of endorphins.
The body will produce endorphins in response to intense physical exercise. Endorphins play a role in ‘runner’s high. The feelings of euphoria long distance runners experience after prolonged bouts of exercise helps to fuel a better run. Release of endorphins varies from each person to another which means the same amount of exercise does not produce the same amount of endorphins for every person. Research suggests exercise helps improve mood and may aid in depression treatment so exercise makes sense to help kick up the ‘feel good’ attributes.
Endorphins play a role in the brain’s reward system. Some scientists and doctors have suggested ‘feel good’ chemicals play a role in exercise addiction or drug dependence. Exercise addiction may occur in people who exercise excessively. It is characterized by symptoms of withdrawal, feeling depressed, anxious or restless after not exercising. The same is true of other substances as well. Endorphins a play a major role in addiction in fueling the desire to continue drinking, using drugs or having promiscuous sex as the brain chemicals flood the body and create cravings for the substance. Increased levels of endorphins have been linked to vigorous exercise but also to dependence or addiction, with some negative but some positive benefits.
One of endorphins’ main functions is to moderate pain. A part of the brain called the hypothalamus sets off a chain of events which increases production of endorphins. This higher level of endorphins helps individuals deal more effectively with chronic pain management. People with high levels of endorphins following surgery have a better response to the pain.
Laughter provides an easy way to enjoy life and forget about stress. The body releases endorphins when a person laughs and makes the experience enjoyable. Even expecting to laugh can increase levels of endorphins in the body. During a study published in 2006, endorphins were highest in individuals to expected to laugh than people who did not. Stress can be reduced and mood can become elevated when a person is able to laugh or anticipate laughter as a benefit of the feel good chemicals flooding the system.
Overall, endorphins provide a gateway to some important health benefits but also come with risks when involved with addictions. The power of the brain’s chemicals in the body should not be underestimated but it is important to realize the benefits are greater often than the challenges, which can be overcome with the right support network and system in place to guide an individual through recovery and thus to enjoy the benefits of the positive side effects of endorphins, and life itself.
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