Serotonin is an invaluable chemical found in the brain that helps to regulate sleep patterns, stress levels and overall disposition. There are many different factors that can affect the levels of serotonin, including increased levels of stress, lack of sleep, lack of exposure to sunlight, lack of exercise and a poor diet. The use of prescription medications as well as excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption also plays a role in decreasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. When the serotonin levels drop to an unhealthy level, a variety of symptoms can appear; many of these symptoms are common in most patients with a serotonin deficiency, however the severity and combination in which they appear can help physicians to properly diagnose and treat this condition. The most common symptoms include depression and anxiety, feelings of fatigue, insomnia, impaired cognitive function and impulse control, decreased interest in regular activities, and severely lowered levels of self-esteem.
Arguably the most common sign of a serotonin deficiency is depression; this can range anywhere from just feeling melancholy to extended periods of deep depression. Feeling anxious is also very common with a deficiency in serotonin levels; again, this can range from slight distress to extreme panic in stressful situations. In some mild cases, this can be dealt with through simple lifestyle changes -- in more severe cases, supplementation may be required or your physician may prescribe medications to help bring your serotonin back up to a healthy level.
Many people with a serotonin deficiency have disrupted sleep patterns; while some sufferers may still get adequate rest, they are often plagued by feelings of fatigue and a lack of mental clarity. In more severe cases, people suffer from insomnia as a result of decreased serotonin levels; insomnia can include not being able to fall asleep, waking up frequently and having difficulty falling back to sleep. These interruptions in sleep patterns can be a nuisance, but left untreated can be extremely dangerous for one's health and well-being.
A lack of sleep can also result in an impaired ability to think and reason properly. This decrease in cognitive function can cause minor memory loss, mental fogginess, and the inability to solve problems efficiently. This can also lead to a lack of impulse control, which will often manifest itself as obsessive compulsive behaviors, extreme spending or gambling and addictions to drugs or alcohol. Low serotonin levels in the brain can have a direct impact on how a person reasons and behaves.
Lower levels of serotonin also have an effect on how a person feels about themselves and their surroundings. Those with unhealthy levels of serotonin can experience a loss of interest in their regular activities; this goes beyond regular boredom, and the afflicted individuals may also suffer from a low self-esteem. Consistent feelings of worthlessness and negativity are a cause for concern and should be discussed with a physician or mental health professional.
While many of these symptoms can come and go, persistent depression, insomnia, lack of interest, low self-esteem and mental fogginess should be brought to the attention of a doctor. A health professional may be able to recommend simple changes that can help solve everyday problems concerning a serotonin deficiency. For more severe cases, they may suggest supplements or prescribe medications that can increase serotonin levels in the brain and help restore that essential balance.