Serotonin And Anxiety: What You Need To Know
Anxiety is a very complex mental health condition. It can have a variety of different causes, both physical and mental. It can be triggered by trauma or the symptom of a medical issue. One thing that is affected, no matter what the root cause or trigger is, is serotonin. But how exactly does it impact anxiety, and what else should you know about it? PYM has your primer on all things serotonin.
To start, a brief serotonin 101. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happiness” hormone, as it is one of the most important hormones that helps stabilize the mood. However, serotonin also does so much more than that. It has the ability to impact nearly every system of the body and has a major effect on things like sleep, nausea, bone health, blood clotting, temperature regulation, and bowel movements. It also helps to heal wounds! It’s a pretty amazing hormone.
Technically, serotonin is considered a neurotransmitter, which means that it is key to helping the body relay messages from neuron to neuron. It is manufactured by the body using an essential amino acid known as tryptophan (yes, the very same that is often talked about around Thanksgiving). When it combines with its reactor, the end result is 5-hydroxytryptamine, the chemical name for serotonin.
Ironically, although so much of serotonin is associated with brain function and mental health, 90% of the serotonin in the body is located in either the platelets in the blood of the digestive tract.
Serotonin and Mental Health
Obviously, we’re going to focus specifically on the ways that serotonin can impact your mental health. There has been plenty of research done on this connection, which is why it has become both a major part of the conversation surrounding mental health and also a target of certain medications meant to help improve it.
Ultimately, what is known is that most mental health conditions that are linked to serotonin are due to having too little in the system. However, research is still ongoing in exactly how that makes a difference. Some believe that it is a lack of serotonin production that sets the stage for mental health concerns, while others point the blame at a lack of receptors to collect it. It may also be related to a problem in transmission somewhere along the line or even that the body does not having enough tryptophan to produce it in the first place.
The main issue with using serotonin levels to “diagnose” depression or anxiety is that, while you can measure the level of serotonin in the blood, there isn’t enough research to show whether that mimics how much is in the brain. They also aren’t sure whether depression and anxiety is triggered by low serotonin levels or that the opposite is true, that depression and anxiety cause the levels to be low.
On the flip side, serotonin levels that are too high can potentially trigger a side effect called serotonin syndrome. Although this is rare and is often the result of an interaction between two medications, symptoms include hallucinations, loss of coordination, rapid heart rate, and big swings in blood pressure. Serotonin syndrome can be dangerous, so you should always seek immediate medical help if you suspect you are experiencing it.
How SSRIs Work
A natural continuation of the conversation surrounding serotonin and anxiety is to discuss what SSRIs are and how they may be able to help. Before we begin, it’s important to remember that everyone’s bodies and struggles are different, so you should always check with your medical provider if you have any questions.
SSRIs is the common shortened name for a medication known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. These drugs work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, and they are the most commonly prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication currently out there. SSRIs are able to help increase serotonin levels by actually blocking its reabsorption into the neurons. The “selective” part comes from the fact that they only affect serotonin and not any of the other neurotransmitters that may impact mood. It’s a precise, generally safe, targeted medication.
Some of the more recognizable SSRIs on the market are Prozac (Fluoxetine), Zoloft (Sertraline), and Lexapro (Escitalopram).
Can I Do Anything To Naturally Increase My Serotonin Levels?
In addition to talking to your doctor about if an SSRI would be right for you, there are also other ways that you can help naturally increase your levels. However, because there is no way to measure the levels of serotonin in the brain, we don’t know exactly how much of an increase it may be. The best way to judge is by how you feel.
Supplements that may increase the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, serotonin as well as GABA and dopamine, are a great place to start. PYM Mood Chews were designed with this in mind, as they contain not only GABA but also L-Theanine, which can stimulate their production. If you take it when you start to feel anxiety creep in, or 20 minutes prior to any stressful event, it can help your body manage your stress better.
Exercise can also help to improve the mood. While its effect specifically on serotonin isn’t exactly known, its ability to help increase other endorphins and chemicals, like dopamine, that naturally boost the mood is. If you’re feeling stressed, head out on a walk or a hike. The combination of getting a little fresh air and the exercise itself can really help.
Serotonin can definitely impact anxiety, even if we don’t know exactly how. When you don’t have enough in your body, your mood will naturally plummet. Visit your doctor if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, and also consider using natural supplements as well as exercise to help you feel better as quickly as possible. Don’t let anxiety have control of your life any longer; take your power back today with PYM.