Euphoria is an overwhelming feeling of happiness, joy, and well-being. People experiencing euphoria may feel carefree, safe, and free of stress. This emotion can be either a normal reaction to happy events or a symptom of substance abuse and certain mental health conditions.
Euphoria and Neurotransmitters
Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter responsible for euphoria. This chemical enables feelings of pleasure and well-being, and insufficient quantities of dopamine can inhibit a person’s ability to feel pleasure. Serotonin can also affect feelings of well-being, although serotonin does not typically cause feelings of euphoria. Medications that regulate neurotransmitters can enable people to feel satisfaction and happiness, as well as more elated feelings of euphoria.
Causes of Euphoria
Euphoria is not in itself a medical condition and is in fact one of the most pleasurable aspects of being human. Sexual satisfaction, exciting life events, achievement, and love can all provoke feelings of euphoria. Exercise also causes feelings of euphoria when the body depletes its glycogen stores and then releases endorphins. Occasionally, however, a person’s euphoria does not make sense within a particular context. Several conditions and lifestyle choices can contribute to incongruous feelings of euphoria:
- Drug use may cause euphoria. Cannabis, heroin, MDMA (also known as ecstasy), and some hallucinogens may cause euphoria. Often, the euphoric feelings wane with increasing use. Drugs that cause feelings of euphoria frequently act directly on dopamine levels.
- Manic states brought about by bipolar or cyclothymia often cause periods of euphoria followed by feelings of depression.
- Though rare, some brain disorders and head injuries may cause inappropriate feelings of euphoria. When a tumor or head injury interferes with the body’s ability to process negative emotions or alters the production of neurotransmitters, ongoing euphoria may be the result.
- Some schizophrenic patients may experience euphoria, particularly if they experience pleasant delusions and hallucinations.
- Hypoxia–oxygen deprivation–may cause euphoria. This variety of euphoria is common among people who rapidly ascend to high altitudes, such as mountain climbers.
- Audesirk, T., Audesirk, G., & Byers, B. E. (2008). Biology: Life on earth with physiology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Last Updated: 08-7-2015
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