Friday, 4 July 2014

Reclaiming happiness...

Serotonin is without a doubt my favourite molecule. Its action as a neurotransmitter regulates so many processes and is involved in regulating; sleep, appetite, memory and of course mood, just to name a few, which is why it is so fascinating to me.

A neurotransmitter is a chemical that travel from one synapse to another, transmitting a signal. Serotonin is one of many neurotransmitters but I feel especially close to serotonin (as geeky as that may sound). I've struggled with depression, anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder for a few years now, yet was only diagnosed at the beginning of this year (I'll leave the rant about mental health care for young people out of this). Serotonin levels are widely believed to play a role in depression, although it's not known whether low levels cause depression or depression causes low levels. As most people know, because serotonin plays a role in regulating mood, when you have depression your serotonin levels are lower than they should be, leaving you feeling down.

80% of our body's serotonin is in the gut [1] (although some sources say 90%? I'm not sure), leaving 20% circulating in the central nervous system. I read somewhere once that 'Depression is a flaw in chemistry, not character.' and it's completely true, so many glitches can leave your brain with low levels of serotonin; lack of tryptophan, from which serotonin is made, lack of receptor sites so serotonin can't bind, or just simply that your brain doesn't produce as much serotonin as it should.

I love it so much, I have a necklace of a serotonin molecule
For my depression I was put on citalopram, an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) which increase levels of serotonin in your brain, making you feel better. Usually, after a serotonin molecule has transmitted a signal it's reabsorbed. SSRIs stop them from being absorbed, increasing your levels of serotonin. It's so odd to me that increasing levels of one chemical in my brain leaves me in a much better mood.

Moral of the story? Serotonin is fab.

Check out http://www.theserotoninproject.com/ for a little piece of happiness :)









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