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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Does low serotonin causes depression?

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    Leanne Hall

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Integrative Psychologist, Health Coach & Personal Trainer in private practice. I have expertise in assessing and treating a range of disorders and conditions; depression, anxiety, … View Profile

    There has been quite a lot of research looking at the role of serotonin in causing/influencing depression. The short answer to your question is = we don't really know! What we do know, is that serotonin is a neurotransmitter - a chemical that helps relay messages from one part of the brain to an other. Many researchers believe that an imbalance of serotonin levels influences mood. There are a number of theories about exactly how this happens…..some believe that it's due to a lack of receptor sites, others believe it's due to a low production of serotonin, and others believe it's due to a shortage of tryptophan (the chemical from which serotinin is made). 
    The problem is that we have no real way of measuring serotonin in the brain. Blood tests can give us an idea, however we don't really know if a blood test is reflective of how much serotonin is actually in the brain (around 90% of serotonin is found in blood platelets & the digestive tract). 
    We also know that for many sufferers of depression, certain anti-depressant medications called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor's (SSRI's) help elevate mood. These medications work by assisting the brain in making the best use of serotonin. This is probably the closest “proof” we have to suggesting that serotonin does influence mood!

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