Chemical Imbalance In Depression: What Causes Them
Low neurotransmitter levels may contribute to depression. Studies have identified several possible reasons for chemical imbalances in the brain, such as the following:
- Low levels of enzymes that aid in the production of neurotransmitters
- Insufficient receptor sites to accept the neurotransmitters
- Presynaptic cells reabsorb the neurotransmitter before it reaches the receptor cell
- Insufficient molecules that contribute to the formation of neurotransmitters
- Insufficient production of a specific neurotransmitter
Is Depression Just Bad Chemistry
The disorder is complex and has so far eluded a simple biological explanation
The general idea is that a deficiency of certain neurotransmitters at synapses, or tiny gaps, between neurons interferes with the transmission of nerve impulses, causing or contributing to depression. One of these neurotransmitters, serotonin, has attracted the most attention, but many others, including norepinephrine and dopamine, have also been granted supporting roles in the story.
Much of the general public seems to have accepted the chemical imbalance hypothesis uncritically. For example, in a 2007 survey of 262 undergraduates, psychologist Christopher M. France of Cleveland State University and his colleagues found that 84.7 percent of participants found it likely that chemical imbalances cause depression. In reality, however, depression cannot be boiled down to an excess or deficit of any particular chemical or even a suite of chemicals. Chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that, neuroscientist Joseph Coyle of Harvard Medical School was quoted as saying in a blog by National Public Radio’s Alix Spiegel.
This article was originally published with the title “Is Depression Just Bad Chemistry?” in SA Mind 25, 2, 66-67
What Is The Chemical Imbalance That Causes Anxiety
The Chemical Imbalance Theory for Panic Disorder
The neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid are specifically believed to be linked to mood and anxiety disorders.
These neurotransmitters are in charge of regulating various body functions and emotions.
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Neurotransmitters Balance Our Brain Chemistry
Last Updated on February 21, 2018 by Inspire Malibu
We often hear talk of a chemical imbalance in the brain to describe numerous disorders. Our body and brain are made up of chemicals such as proteins, amino acids, and neurotransmitters that support regular and irregular functioning.
Most of the time, things work correctly as designed, and life is good. But when a chemical imbalance occurs, problems arise and we become sluggish, out of whack, and sick. Correcting the imbalance can be easy or difficult depending on the duration and type of imbalance.
In the body, when PH levels become too acidic we experience heartburn or indigestion. Many people reach for an antacid to neutralize the symptoms. Ironically, eating a lemon works just as well and its a natural form of medication.
But changes in the human body can be more tolerant than a chemical imbalance in the brain, and sometimes easier to diagnose and treat. The brain is a complex system and more difficult to diagnose and treat when chemicals go awry. And when the brain is in disarray, it can cause problems for the entire body.
The major chemicals in the brain that control our moods, emotions and how we feel are called Neurotransmitters and they come in various flavors. Neurotransmitters act as messengers that send signals from one neuron to another by binding to receptors in the brain.
What are some of the main Neurotransmitters in the brain?
What Causes A Person To Have A Chemical Imbalance In The Brain
The exact cause of mental health conditions is still unclear. Researchers believe that genetics as well as environmental and social factors, such as stress or trauma, play a role.
The chemical imbalance theory is disproven, yet its often presented as an explanation for mental health conditions.
It states that these conditions are caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters between nerve cells in the brain.
For example, depression is said to result from insufficient levels of serotonin in the brain. But the theory doesnt explain how these chemicals become imbalanced.
Harvard Medical School reports that there are likely millions of chemical reactions occurring in the brain. These reactions are responsible for presenting a persons mood and overall feelings.
The millions of reactions occurring makes it impossible to determine if someone is experiencing a chemical imbalance in their brain.
The most common evidence used to support the chemical imbalance theory is the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.
Antidepressant medications work by increasing the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain.
However, if a persons mood can be elevated with help from medications to increase brain chemicals, this doesnt mean that the symptoms necessarily come from a chemical deficiency.
Its also possible that low serotonin levels are just another symptom of depression, not the cause.
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Symptoms Of A Chemical Imbalance
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released from nerve cell endings and travel to surrounding nerve cells to relay a signal. The signal travels to different areas of the brain, which creates emotions or causes a physical response.
Neurotransmitters have many different functions and can act on many areas of the body. Chemical imbalance symptoms include:
- Feeling sadness or hopelessness
- Lacking interest in things that you usually enjoy doing
- Feeling anxious or nervous
Feelings of depression or anxiety can lead to suicidal thinking. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at .
Onset Of Depression More Complex Than A Brain Chemical Imbalance
It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.
To be sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.
With this level of complexity, you can see how two people might have similar symptoms of depression, but the problem on the inside, and therefore what treatments will work best, may be entirely different.
What follows is an overview of the current understanding of the major factors believed to play a role in the causes of depression.
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The Role Of Key Neurotransmitters
The three neurotransmitters implicated in depression are:
There are other neurotransmitters that can send messages in the brain, including glutamate, GABA, and acetylcholine. Researchers are still learning about the role these brain chemicals play in depression and other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia.
How Do You Know When You Have A Chemical Imbalance
Since chemical imbalances are something that develop overtime in the brain, it may be hard to tell when youre experiencing it yourself. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of chemical imbalances:
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Drug or alcohol misuse or abuse
If you regularly experience any combination of the side effects above, it may be time to ask your doctor if you may have a chemical imbalance. However, there is still research being done on how to exactly determine a chemical imbalance, so tests such as urine and hair tests may not be accurate. If you think you may have a chemical imbalance or a mental condition such as depression or anxiety, your doctor may be able to diagnose you by evaluating your thoughts, feelings, sleeping and eating habits, and daily activities. If your doctor is not able to reach a diagnosis, they will likely refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further treatment.
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How Is Schizophrenia Treated
Managing schizophrenia is a lifelong process. It can’t be cured. But symptoms can often be managed with medicine and therapy. Often, more than 1 method is needed. Types of treatment that may be helpful include:
Antipsychotic medicines. These are the main medicines used to reduce the most troubling symptoms such as delusions and paranoia.
Other medicines. These may include antidepressants or other mood stabilizers.
Therapy. Individual and family therapy .
Training. These may include learning social skills, job skills, or structured activity.
Self-help and support groups.
Early treatment and supportive services helps affected people live productive lives. It’s very important to take medicines exactly as prescribed and to keep taking them even if you feel better. Many people may still have some symptoms, even with treatment. At times, symptoms may get worse and treatment will need to be adjusted.
Always see your healthcare provider for more information.
You Learn By Doing Things Over And Over Again
When you learn things about your family, it becomes a part of your brain’s neural pathways and associations. Remembering your mother brings back many memories because they are all tied together or bundled together by these neural pathways or associations in the brain.
Anything you learn, regardless of what it is, becomes a part of the vast neuronal associations in the brain, which contain over one billion nerve cells.
When you learn that Alexander the Great tried to conquer the world, as did Napoleon, your brain ties these people together into a neural association in your brain concerning history, historical events, and leaders who lived in the past.
When you learn to tie your shoes, ride a bicycle, drive a car, use a computer keyboard, or learn a musical instrument, your brain gradually develops the neural pathways to make your “practicing” become automatic. These are literal brain nerve cells and they associate together with other brain cells that relate to the “subject” you’ve learned.
The more you practice and learn, and the more quality time you put into your practice, the more that your brain pathways change. Fairly soon, you know how to tie your shoes and you don’t think about it anymore. This practice you did has made tying your shoes become automatic.
It is exactly the same way with cognitive therapy for social anxiety.
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The Brain Creates Billions Of Neural Pathways
The brain is literally creating new neural pathways, much like the interstate highway system, that carries information from one neuron to the next. The neurons clump together and are associated with each other as one thing leads you to think of another thing, or as one task must be understood to understand the following one. For our purposes, we should note that these brain associations can trigger anxiety and release it into our system.
This is quite normal because everything we learn — everything you learned in school and at the job — becomes part of our neural associations or pathways.
Is Anxiety A Byproduct Of A Chemical Imbalance
Studies show that anxiety and general nervousness, both of which affect the lives of millions of people in America, often stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain. To fully understand how and why this is the case, it helps to know a little more about what it means to have such an imbalance. In short, a chemical imbalance is a term used to describe exceedingly low or high levels of chemical messengers in the brain known as neurotransmitters.
The primary role of neurotransmitters is to transmit information between nerve cells within the brain. That said, the human brain houses hundreds, if not thousands, of these neurotransmitters. And an imbalance in any of them can trigger a myriad of negative emotional and psychological responses. Some of the more notable ones include depression, panic attacks, and anxiety.
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Treatment Options For Chemical Imbalance And Mood Disorders
Here at Reboot, our team values providing individual treatment plans to meet your specific needs. At our facility, we offer a multitude of innovative services to help you get back to feeling like your best self. These services would include, talk therapy, brain mapping, EMDR, and neurofeedback.
Each of these are utilized to target and treat you as a whole on your wellness journey. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you!
Chemical Imbalances And Depression
You often hear the words chemical imbalances associated with addiction and mental health. Knowing what this term means is a great help in understanding many psychiatric conditions.
Chemical imbalances happen when the brain has either too many or too few neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are natural chemicals that help the nerve cells to communicate with each other. Examples of these chemicals include dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction, are affected by an imbalance of brain chemicals. But there is much more to mental illnesses than only chemical imbalances. However, drugs and alcohol use can be important factors as they affect neurotransmitters, which may lead to addiction and the need for an addiction treatment center.
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How Are Chemical Imbalances In The Brain Corrected
Antidepressant medications help millions of Americans fight depression by correcting the chemical imbalances in their brains to some degree. However, these medications dont work for some people, and they dont for many of our patients either. Sometimes the chemical imbalance might not be severe enough to necessitate prescription medication.
Thats why we might suggest other ways of correcting this chemical imbalance. Exercise can have a profound effect on dopamine levels in the brain when they are performed on a regular basis. The pleasure and reward centers of the brain are stimulated from strenuous exercise, and the effects can be amazing for mental health.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to expedite the brains use of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. When levels of these two chemicals are increased, feelings of depression and fatigue begin to lessen.
Let us help you find the right solutions for preserving your mental health. At Southside Medical Center we offer individual and group therapy, family and couples counseling, psychiatric assessment, and medication management among other things. We are conveniently located in Atlanta, GA. Contact us today to schedule your appointment! Our staff is here to help.
Treatments That Can Help Resolve Symptoms Caused By A Chemical Imbalance In The Brain
Fortunately, there is no shortage of prescription-based medications that can help individuals struggling with mental health disorders, including severe anxiety. Some of the more commonly prescribed ones include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, all of which can provide relief in as little as 30 minutes. Psychotherapy with a licensed therapist is also an effective way to resolve chronic worrying, anxiety, and much more. That being said, if you feel nervous all the time or struggle with any of the mental health disorders detailed in this article, consider speaking with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates today. Call us at .
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Debunking The Two Chemical Imbalance Myths Again
Moving toward a bio-psycho-sociocultural model of major depression.
For reader feedback, see Chemical Imbalance? Readers Respond.
Dr Pies is Professor in the psychiatry departments of SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston. He is Editor in Chief Emeritus of Psychiatric Times .
A little learning is a dangerous thing. – Alexander Pope1
Like the legendary Count Dracula, who could be killed only by driving a stake through his heart, some myths seem almost immortal. For more than 8 years now, I have tried to drive a stake through the heart of two myths regarding the so-called chemical imbalance theory-but with only limited success, as a recent piece in the New Yorker brought home to me.2-5
Ironically, anti-psychiatry groups are quite right in heaping scorn on the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness, but not for the reasons they usually give. . The fact is, there could never have been a scientifically based, chemical imbalance theory of mental illness, because a genuine theory requires an integrated network of well-supported, interlinked hypotheses. And yes, the frequently ignored distinction between a theory and a hypothesis is crucial. It is the key to understanding why claims by antipsychiatry bloggers regarding the chemical imbalance theory nearly always crash and burn.
The theory that never was
Psychiatrists questioned the chemical imbalance theory
The bio-psycho-sociocultural model
How Do You Know If Someone Had A Chemical Imbalance
There would be no way to tell if someone truly had a chemical imbalance in their brain at a given time. The most common evidence used to support the chemical imbalance theory is the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. These medications work by increasing the amounts of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain.
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Moving Beyond Chemical Imbalance Theory Of Depression
Pritzker Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Director, Pritzker Laboratory
Co-director, Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences
Scientific Council Member
2010 Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience
2007 Distinguished Investigator Grant
1992, 1990 Young Investigator Grant
A bottom up approach to understanding the brain leads to crucial new discoveries
From The Quarterly, Fall 2012
What causes depression? Experience tells us that people can become depressed when they are under acute or chronic stress. Or when they are exposed to trauma. It tells us that the period immediately following childbirth often finds new moms in a blue mood. We also know that some people who lose a loved one stay down even after an extended period of grieving.
But all of these are associations between certain life experiences and depression, not biological causes.
And they tell us nothing about why millions of other people, for no apparent reason at all, experience plunges in mood that leave them incapable of experiencing pleasure, even in rewarding activities and experiences that almost universally produce it.
Wanting to understand pleasure leads to a surprising discovery
Recognizing the brain as a vast network
Targeting malfunctioning circuits may treat symptoms across disorders