Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in behavior, mood, movement, learning, and many other functions. Its technical name is 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT. Like all neurotransmitters, serotonin transmits a nerve signal to a synapse.
When serotonin levels are too low, this may weaken the nerve signals. One of the most common symptoms of low serotonin is depression, but low serotonin levels can affect almost any body system, leading to a wide range of symptoms.
Understanding Serotonin: What Does Serotonin Do?
Researchers have studied serotonin for over 60 years and revealed roles for this important neurotransmitter in many brain functions. All animals and even plants produce serotonin, suggesting it appeared very early in evolution.
However, serotonin is difficult to isolate. In addition, a wide range of neurotransmitters – as well as other factors such as general health, the environment and unique biology – can affect mental and physical health. This has made it hard for researchers to create direct correlations between serotonin and various functions.
Researchers have long believed that serotonin deficiency can lead to depression. In fact, many popular antidepressants increase serotonin levels in the brain. However, some studies call into question this widely accepted theory of serotonin. A 2014 mouse study, for example, found that the genetic decrease in serotonin levels did not lead to depression. Clinical doctors have found that serotonin levels are genetically low in some people with depression, so this study undermines this theory.
Many diseases can cause serotonin deficiency symptoms, so it is important to see a healthcare provider get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
This mixed investigation means that it is impossible to diagnose serotonin deficiency based only on symptoms. People with normal serotonin levels may experience symptoms compatible with serotonin deficiency, while some people with low serotonin may have no symptoms at all. Many diseases can cause serotonin deficiency symptoms, so it is important to see a healthcare provider get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
What causes serotonin deficiency?
Most cases of serotonin deficiency are idiopathic, which means that doctors can not find a specific cause. Certain hereditary genetic disorders may affect the body's ability to make or metabolize serotonin. Lifestyle and other factors that may also play a role include:
- Hormonal displacements, such as the onset or discontinuation of hormone replacement therapy, menopause, pregnancy or age progression
- Lack of sunlight
- Poor diet
- Some medicines and medicines, especially when used for excess or for a long time
- Chronic stress
10 serotonin deficiency symptoms
Serotonin never acts alone and forms part of a complex system. Serotonin deficient individuals may also have deficiencies in other neurotransmitters, as well as metabolic or other health problems. Certain common serotonin deficiency sites include:
Research is increasingly showing a complicated relationship between depression and serotonin. We do not fully understand how serotonin deficiency can cause depression, but most studies claim to be a factor. Depression associated with life events, particularly chronic stress and trauma, can also destroy serotonin levels. Therefore, lack of serotonin may be the cause and effect of depression.
2. Changes in sleep
Serotonin helps regulate the body's internal clock, including the ability to feel drowsy, remain asleep, enter REM and wake up in the morning. People with chronic insomnia, unusual sleep patterns, chronic fatigue or constantly living dreams may have serotonin deficiency.
3. Chronic pain
Serotonin affects the way the muscles behave, so low serotonin can cause chronic pain. Low serotonin is strongly associated with fibromyalgia, a type of extensive chronic pain. People with fibromyalgia can even get relief from antidepressants that increase serotonin levels.
4. Memory or learning issues
Some studies have linked serotonin to memory and learning, so sudden difficulties with memory or learning could signal a serotonin issue. In addition, other symptoms of serotonin deficiency, such as sleep deprivation and depression, may make concentration and learning difficult.
Stress, including obsessive compulsive forms of anxiety, may indicate that a person has low serotonin. Anxiety that occurs suddenly and does not seem to be related to anything else, such as recent trauma or anxiety, is often due to a serotonin issue. Chronic stress and anxiety can also destroy serotonin.
Many studies have found low levels of serotonin in people with schizophrenia. Unusual beliefs or behaviors, auditory or visual hallucinations, and sudden changes in mood or personality may be a sign of low serotonin.
7. Problems with internal body clock
Serotonin helps regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which is the inside of the clock. Although it's common for people to have difficulty getting up in the morning or occasionally forgetting meals, dysfunction inside the clock can cause serious sleep, appetite, and other issues. A person who never sleeps according to a regular program, who has difficulty maintaining a consistent pattern of hunger and food, or who feels tired or excessive, could have a problem with his circadian rhythm. This may be due to low serotonin.
8. Appetite issues
Some studies have found that people with low serotonin may have appetite problems or eating disorders. This may include over-consumption of food, not eating enough or alternating between the two. In addition, some people with depression also experience problems with appetite.
It is likely for an individual whose blood serotonin levels appear to have very little usable serotonin.
Low serotonin can cause attention deficit / attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD / ADHD). A person may have difficulty gathering, having fun, being bored for years, or unable to sit still. Children may seem to have unlimited energy, behave aggressively, or often get confused at school.
A handful of new studies suggest that low serotonin in the brain is associated with dementia and may even be an early warning sign of this disease group. It is unclear whether low serotonin causes dementia or is a symptom. Because serotonin may affect memory, concentration and other cognitive functions, however, it is likely that serotonin drops increase the risk of dementia as a person matures.
Diagnosis and treatment of serotonin deficiency
A serotonin blood test can measure blood serotonin levels. However, doctors usually only use this test to control serotonin-producing tumors. Doctors usually do not perform blood tests to evaluate serotonin levels because factors other than blood serotonin – such as metabolism, serotonin receptors and hormones – can affect the body's ability to process and use serotonin. It is likely for an individual whose blood serotonin levels appear to have very little usable serotonin.
Instead of controlling serotonin levels, physicians usually experience the symptoms of an individual. Depending on your symptoms, your provider may recommend tests to rule out other causes, such as hormone abnormalities or physical damage. Then they can recommend a drug that increases serotonin levels, such as an antidepressant. In some cases, providers may also recommend lifestyle changes such as exercise.
Serotonin deficiency is a complex issue. Lifestyle and psychological factors often play a central role. In addition, serotonin deficiency symptoms can affect a person's relationship and quality of life. Treatment can help in many ways. For people with depression associated with low serotonin, a therapist can offer lifestyle management tips, a nice ear and help with relationships.
Treatment can also help people with low serotonin to become better supporters for themselves. For example, a person with fibromyalgia or chronic pain may struggle to talk with loved ones about their symptoms or feel reluctant to seek accommodation at work. Treatment can help them explore their choices, adopt healthy self-care strategies, and support their needs.
For help, find a healer who can support you as you deal with low serotonin, click here.
- Al-Nimer, M. M., Mohammad, T. M., & Alsakeni, R. (2018). Serum serotonin levels as a biomarker of newly diagnosed fibromyalgia in women: Its relationship to platelet markers. Journal of Medical Research, 23(1), 71. doi: 10.4103 / jrms.JRMS_859_17
- Angoa-Pérez, M., Kane, M.J., Briggs, D.I., Herrera-Mundo, N., Sykes, C.E., Francescutti, D.M., & Kuhn, D.M. (2014). Mice depleted genetically by serotonin in the brain exhibit a behavioral phenomenon similar to depression. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 5(10), 908-919. doi: 10.1021 / cn500096g
- The brain scan study adds evidence that lower brain serotonin levels are associated with dementia. (2017, 14 August). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/brain_scan_study_adds_to_evidence_that_lower_brain_serotonin_levels_are_linked_to_dementia_
- Frazer, A., & Hensler, J. G. (1999). Serotonin. In G. J. Siegel (Author) Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular and Medical Aspects (6th Edition). Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic Press.
- Whitney, M. S., Shemery, A. M., Yaw, A. M., Donovan, L. J., Glass, J. D., & Deneris, E. S. (2016). Adult brain serotonin deficiency causes hyperactivity, circadian disease, and satiety elimination. Journal of Neuroscience, 36(38), 9828-9842. doi: 10.1523 / JNEUROSCI.1469-16.2016
© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The previous article was written only by the author named above. Any views and opinions are not necessarily expressed by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the previous article may be directed to the author or published as a comment below.