Serotonin deficiency

November 12, 2012

Serotonin deficiency

Serotonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the human brain. It plays an essential role in mood regulation and feelings of well being; it is also a key neurotransmitter in the sleep cycle and is an essential brain chemical.

Having a sufficiently high level of serotonin means emotional stability, regular sleeping patterns and dealing with feelings, situations and problems in a logical manner. A low serotonin level will cause excessive irritability and sensitivity, a tendency to weeping and altered sleep patterns.

What happens in serotonin deficiency?

  • Serotonin levels are subject to frequent fluctuations and any deficiency may lead to problems of varying severity in everyday life. Individuals who have a serotonin deficiency may experience any of a number of symptoms including -

  • Anxiety – this may only manifest as mild panic, but, may also cause extreme distress in certain situations. Mild anxiety can generally be dealt with be implementing lifestyle changes but, if the panic attacks are severe and debilitating then medical treatment may be required.

  • Fatigue, a constant feeling of tiredness no matter how many hours sleep are achieved or how much caffeine is ingested may indicate a serotonin deficiency. Feelings of mental sluggishness may also be present.

  • Depression – not just the occasional feeling of ‘being blue’ – but persistent feelings of overwhelming sadness, often accompanied by unexplained weeping.

  • Increased forgetfulness accompanied by inability to process thoughts and slowing of problem solving skills.

  • Low self esteem

  • Loss of pleasure in activities previously found to be enjoyable

  • Insomnia or erratic sleeping patterns

  • Poor control of impulses resulting in inappropriate behaviour such as excessive spending, obsessive compulsions or even addiction.

Causes of serotonin deficiency

Low serotonin levels can be the result of the stresses and strains of modern way of life. A serotonin deficiency can severely affect quality of life for sufferers and it is known to be a widespread problem. Serotonin levels may affected by a wide range of factors including -

  • Lack of sleep

  • Stress

  • Lack of sunlight

  • Unbalanced diet

  • Some medication

  • Excess caffeine or alcohol intake

  • Recreational drug use


Diagnosis of serotonin deficiency is difficult as many of the symptoms are not dissimilar to many normal human traits. Medical experts will consider the combination of symptoms in a patient as well as their severity. Once a diagnosis has been successfully made treatment of serotonin deficiency is relatively straightforward and may involve nothing more than lifestyle changes. For patients with a more severe deficiency prescription medication may be required.

Serotonin deficiency – an umbrella disorder?

Serotonin treatments – such as the SSRIs, 5-HTP and tryptophan – have been found to be successful in treating many conditions which are associated with low levels of the hormone, these disorders include -

  • Migraine

  • PMS

  • OCD

  • Alcoholism

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Bulimia and overeating

  • Aggression

  • Depression, anxiety and insomnia

Some researchers have therefore concluded that low levels of serotonin may be the root cause of all of these conditions and that restoring serotonin to normal levels will lead to a normalising of the associated symptoms and problems. The knowledge that some mental health issues are the result of a chemical imbalance has removed much of the stigma previously associated with the diseases.


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