Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter in the regulation of mood, sleep cycles and so much more. Deficiencies in this essential brain chemical can be caused by a wide range of factors including not getting enough sleep, high levels of stress, low exposure to sunlight, unbalanced diets, prescription medications including pain medication as well as excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol and the use of recreational drugs.
Serotonin deficiency is difficult to diagnose though often relatively easy to treat. There are many symptoms that may indicate a serotonin deficiency, all of which are common to some degree in most humans but the combination and severity of symptoms can help medical experts diagnose and treat the deficiency. Here are some of the most easily recognized symptoms; sometimes they can be treated with small lifestyle changes, sometimes a supplement or prescription medication may be required.
Anxiety - This can be anything from mild panic to extreme impairment and distress in a high-stress situation. Many times mild forms of anxiety can be dealt with through coping skills or lifestyle changes, but the more severe forms may require medical attention.
Fatigue - If you catch yourself being tired all the time regardless of the amount of sleep you get, consider caffeine a major food group and habitually experience mental fogginess, there may be something other than just being too tired.
Depression - Let’s face it, everyone has times when they’re just down and melancholy, it’s part of life; however, if you have “the blues” consistently for extended periods of time you may be experiencing a depressed mood that may require additional intervention.
Impaired cognitive function - Can’t remember where you put the car keys and have to think hard about simple math? Cognitive function is directly impacted by serotonin levels and a severe deficiency may result in mental fogginess, minor memory loss and slowed problem-solving abilities.
Low self-esteem - Habitually feeling disgusted by yourself or feeling worthless are not normal things. At times, everyone is bound to believe negative things about themselves. If this severely low self-esteem keeps up for weeks or months, other issues may be the cause.
Loss of pleasure - A marked loss of interest in hobbies previously enjoyed or a sudden lack of even a sense of satisfaction at a job well done are also symptoms of a serotonin deficiency. When the noted lack of pleasure gotten out of activities becomes nearly non-existent, it may be something beyond mere boredom.
Insomnia - Though everyone has the occasional difficulties sleeping at night due to stress or anxiety, insomnia or hyposomnia can be seriously detrimental to health if you’re repeatedly not able to sleep until very late hours and only manage to get a few hours of sleep each night or have sleep that is consistently interrupted by waking and being unable to go back to sleep quickly. On the same token hypersomnia, or too much sleep, may also be a symptom of serotonin deficiency.
Poor impulse control - This may often manifest itself in obsessive-compulsive behaviors, manic spending or in addictions such as drugs or alcohol. Many severe addictions are caused or exacerbated by low levels of serotonin.
Serotonin levels fluctuate fairly easily and deficiencies may cause severe problems in your everyday life. As with any treatments, be sure to consult a physician before attempting to treat these symptoms with supplements or medication.
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- Supplements That Boost Serotonin Levels
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Barbara on May 24, 2012:
Answered my question clearly and succinctly. I realise now I'm not going mad and there is an answer. Fab article.
Megan on February 05, 2012:
It isn't easy to treat due to anxiety and depression plus medication trial and error. Once the proper medication is revealed it is high affective. That being said, the proper medication is hard to identify.
Serotonin tests are not very accurate. Most doctors (including family doctors) will do a test similar to those for ADD and bipolar disorder. Usually multiple doctors have to agree for it to be confirmed. Also, make sure your doctor is up to date with serotonin. Not all are.
Megan on February 05, 2012:
I have serotonin deficiency syndrome an have had if for some time (I'm 15). What drives me insane is people thinking it only has mental symptoms. While this is all true, it also changes how you perceive pain. I have a basically no existent immune system, fibromyalgia, and horrible body temperature fluxuations. I also have reoccuring UTIs and kidney infections.
IT ISN'T JUST MENTAL. IT AFFECTS INTERNAL ORGANS TOO.
That's all.... (you can see my impulse control here haha)
PS You can also have hyposomnia VS insomnia.
Jennifer Madison from Lohmar on January 26, 2012:
Great article! I love reading about Serotonin, it's so interesting.
Zach on January 02, 2012:
yes ellie go to the website www.integrativepsychiatry.com and they have tests there to determine not only a serotonin deficiency but also epinephrine and other neurotransmitters just to give you an idea. Although research some of the tests to make sure. I ordered a neuro adrenal to test all my neurotransmitters.
ellie on September 20, 2011:
are there any tests you can do to find out if you have a deficiancy?
Multiman on April 10, 2011:
Good article useful information I voted up.