The Importance of Serotonin: Its Impact on Mental Health
I suffer from OCD and Anxiety on a daily basis and a word that I hear often is serotonin or serotonin levels. I never really understand the role of this compound, what it does and why it's important, but after being diagnosed I'm starting to learn a lot more on its impact on mental health.
Serotonin is a compound that is found in blood platelets and serum. It constricts the blood vessels and acts as a neurotransmitter. It has a huge impact on the brain and its function. It helps to regulate mood and social behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual function. So basically, serotonin controls some of the most important bodily functions and is needed to help regulate your mental health.
Serotonin, also known as the "feel good" chemical has a big impact on your wellbeing, how you feel and how you act. This is why it is directly linked to mental health.
So what causes low serotonin?
There is no one specific cause of low serotonin levels. It is usually a combination of reasons. It can be from nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, could be that your body does not produce enough or your body isn't using it efficiently.
If you have anxiety, depression, OCD or any other form of mental illness you may be prescribed medication to help make you feel better. Things like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed to help level out the serotonin in the brain to make one feel better mood-wise. When your brain cells send signals, they release neurotransmitters such as serotonin. In order to send another signal, your cells must reabsorb and circulate the neurotransmitter they released which is known as reuptake, SSRI's help makes serotonin more available in the brain by blocking that specific process.
You can also increase serotonin naturally through specific nutrients found in food. These nutrients help the body produce the neurotransmitters. Things like bananas, turkey and fish oil can help.
I have been on SSRI's for about 6 months now and I have definitely found a difference in my mood and behaviour over time. This is definitely something that does not happen overnight, it takes time for the levels to get back up and sometimes it takes months to find a medication that works best for you. For the last 6 months, I have been on a pill that has helped me feel better and lower my symptoms. Recently I have been put on another pill to help push up the levels of serotonin in my brain to make not only the medication more effective but to make therapy more effective as well.