Serotonin Deficient Depression SDD
The Nature of Serotonin
Serotonin influences your mood, with adequate levels of serotonin one feels balanced and calm. Serotonin also plays an important role in good quality sleep and our sleep/wake cycle.
Deficiency of serotonin can cause depression characterises by very painful thoughts and feelings, anguish, pessimistic thoughts and feelings, low mood, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal thoughts and insomnia.
Imbalances in serotonin may also be involved in:-
eating disorders (dopamine may also be involved in this),
irritable bowel syndrome and
increased sensitivity to pain.
With regards to depression you can think of serotonin as the mind’s natural painkiller that anaesthetizes painful thoughts, feelings and memories. Without adequate serotonin activity in the brain one can feel the full brunt of one’s painful memories, the pain and suffering in the world and simply mental pain for no reason. Restoring healthy serotonin levels can release you from the grip of this painful psychological condition, however it may not make you feel happy. The state of happiness much more that the absence of painful depression, it’s a mistake to think that as soon as you stop being ill with depression you will automatically feel happy and get a free pass on stress. I regret to say that I’ve met several psychotherapists that made this fundamental mistake. It could happen if you were blessed with a naturally happy disposition but then it’s unlikely you would suffer from depression in the first place especially one due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
I’ve known people be surprised to find that once they have overcome their depression using therapy and remedies their life became just OK. Ordinarily healthy people do not feel totally happy all the time, the normal state of the human condition is to have ups and downs, trials and tribulations and experience a full range of appropriate emotions in response to life experiences. When serotonin levels are low ones emotional range can be confined to only low, painful and unhappy feelings; I’ve heard many people with endogenous depression describe their condition feel like a kind of internal mental prison.
The purpose of this book is to show you effective nondrug techniques to free yourself from the limitations imposed on your mind by the chemical imbalance in your brain. Once you’ve broken free from the chemical limitations you will at least have the possibility to live a healthy life and achieve happiness, fulfilment and success in whatever way you measure them. You will still need to do other things beyond just balancing your brain chemistry, such engage in rewarding work, develop relationships and interests, use personal growth and psychotherapy techniques to free yourself from painful memories and unhealthy psychological programming (do a psychological jailbreak if you want), meditate, keep fit etc. etc.
An analogy can be made with physical health, curing oneself of an illness makes you free from illness not necessarily super fit; to become super fit you have to work at it.
As an inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin not only calms and quells painful unhappy thoughts and feelings but it also contributes to controlling anxious and worrying thoughts and feelings. It may not be as directly involved in anxiety as GABA, but a deficiency of serotonin can cause a state of anxiety. When both serotonin and GABA levels are low it can create a state of anxious depression. I had this condition for almost a year in my early 20s and can personally testify that it is a particularly hideous combination.
The nature of serotonin deficient depression (SDD) is notably different to dopamine deficient depression (DDD). To visualise SDD, picture a tortured Russian poet, nervy, at least slightly anxious, painfully pessimistic, intensely unhappy. Without the possibility of the peaceful, happy and optimistic thoughts that serotonin enables us to create, the mind can be take-over by negativity and pessimism. It is often said that a person with depression appears numb and unresponsive, however on the inside a person with SDD feels anything but numb. With SDD ones inner world is very intense, there can be an overwhelming amount of stuff going on, and all of it painful. The intensity of the inner pain and unhappiness can be so all-consuming it takes up their entire focus, this may make them become unresponsive to the outside world, but it is most decidedly not a numb or un-feeling state. Quite the opposite in fact without adequate serotonin to inhibit unhappy thoughts there is an overabundance of painful feelings. In DDD on the other hand one lacks intensity. The loss of all enthusiasm, motivation and capacity for joy is more a state of apathy, creating a pointless insipid existence devoid of interest and engagement in life.
With DDD one can get virtual total loss of interest in life so that life becomes a tortuous drudgery.
With SDD one is tortured by feeling the pain and suffering of all things or just being alive in general.
A person with lack of serotonin may think about suicide as a desperate option to end the excruciating pain they feel.
The person with lack of dopamine may think about suicide because they feel there’s nothing much left to live for, what is the point so speak.
Having said all this please note that the above descriptions can only ever serve as a general guide, my descriptions of the nature of neurotransmitters and the differences between them are just useful rules of thumb based on my own experiences and over two decades of study and clinical observation.
When you supplement the amino acid tryptophan it can only boost the levels of serotonin, it cannot make more dopamine; and vice versa: when you supplement tyrosine it produces dopamine, it does not make more serotonin. This fact is very helpful to know because it enables you to supplement just the one specific neurotransmitter at a time and get a clear feeling of its distinctive antidepressant effects. It also enables you to test which neurotransmitter you’re deficient of.
Unfortunately it’s possible to have a deficiency in both serotonin and dopamine at the same time, I lack the literary skills to adequately describe this complex state. The loss of feeling and connection to the world due to lack of dopamine may actually dumb down the feelings of suffering the low serotonin creates. This may sound like a benefit, but it can create a complex condition with a background feeling that the world is still a painful place (SDD), but there is no point to anything anyway (DDD); not a happy place! Also to make things worse the neurotransmitter levels may not be constant, causing waves of pain then apathy. Treating such a mixed condition may be challenging in the beginning stages.
Tell a person with SDD to look on the bright side because there are other people much worse off in the world will only focus their mind and feelings on this additional pain and suffering, making them feel worse, don’t do it! If you can cheer someone up with such comments they were just “normally” unhappy/stressed and not mentally ill with depression.
Serotonin is also found in the walls of the intestine (the enteric nervous system) and may be significantly involved in irritable bowel syndrome
Though serotonin is typically recognized as a brain chemical, the majority of this neurotransmitter is produced in our digestive tract. Serotonin exerts powerful influence over mood, emotions, memory, cravings (especially for carbohydrates), self-esteem, pain tolerance, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and body-temperature regulation. It is often thought of as our “happy hormone,” especially because its production increases when we’re exposed to natural sunlight. And let’s face it, after months of being stuck indoors, most Canadians are battling low serotonin levels.
Production of serotonin is closely linked to the availability of vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptophan. If our diet lacks sufficient protein and vitamins, we run a greater risk of serotonin deficiency. We may experience a dip in serotonin in relation to physiological causes, dieting, low protein intake, digestive disorders and also stress, since high levels of the stress hormone cortisol rob us of serotonin. When we measure our current lifestyle against all the elements necessary for the body’s natural production of serotonin, add in chronic stress and out-of-control multitasking — two of the main causes of serotonin depletion — it’s no wonder many of us suffer from depleted serotonin.
In my professional opinion, serotonin deficiency has become an epidemic of equal proportion to obesity. I also believe this parallel is no coincidence. Lets take a look at what you can do to ensure you keep your serotonin levels up:
1. Start pretending it’s summer
By this I don’t mean put on shorts and sandals and stand outside shivering — although the weather’s slowly creeping up. What you can do is engage in activities that get you excited for the warmer weather like planning your summer vacation (with a countdown on a calendar), booking some time at a cottage, confirming camping weekends, going for a pedicure (after a winter hiding in boots everyone needs a good pedicure) and even rescuing the barbeque from hiberation. I know the smell of a barbecue makes me feel like summer is coming.
Find out what makes you feel good and put it into action.
2. Alleviate sadness with 5-HTP
A derivative of tryptophan, and one step closer to serotonin, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has been found to actually be more effective than tryptophan for treating sleeplessness, depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia. As an added bonus, it has a positive influence on your weight and can curb an out-of-control appetite – another reason why it’s a great supplement going into the warmer months. In one Italian study, women who took 5-HTP lost 10 pounds over 12 weeks, compared to two pounds in the placebo group.
Bottom line: I recommend taking 50-400 mg per day in divided doses throughout the day or before bed. This product should be taken for at least 4-6 weeks to reach full effectiveness.
3. Calm your brain with a B vitamin
I recommend that my patients keep a B-complex at their desk during times of stress. High total intakes of vitamins B6 and B12 are associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms over time in community-residing older adults, according to the results of a cohort study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Vitamin B6 in particular supports the production and function of serotonin, melatonin and dopamine in the brain.
Bottom line: Take 50-100 mg before bed or a B-complex once daily. If you find yourself suffering from fatigue and chronic stress, in conjunction with depression, you may want to add in additional B5 (also known as pantothenic acid). This is fuel for the adrenal glands and it can prevent certain types of depression as well as provide support for your central nervous system. Take 250 mg twice daily with food.
4. Smile with St. John’s Wort
This herb has been proven effective for easing mild to moderate depression. It appears to work as a natural SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) by preventing the breakdown of serotonin in the brain.
Bottom line: My recommended dosage is 900 mg per day away from food, like on rising or before bed. It takes a minimum of 4-6 weeks to reach full effectiveness.
5. Add inositol to your smoothies
Naturally present in many foods, inositol improves the activity of serotonin in the brain. As a supplement, it’s an excellent choice for alleviating anxiety and depression and supporting nervous system health. I use it in powdered form and add it to my daily smoothie or a glass of water before bed. Inositol is very effective for calming the nervous system when mixed with magnesium.
Bottom line: Take 4-12 g per day.
6. Follow the light
There’s a pretty good reason that Canadians love their patios – after being stuck inside all winter, we can hardly wait to get some fresh air and sunlight. Heading into the sunshine, even on a cool day, is the quickest way to boost your mood (and burn some belly fat). If you do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach you will not only burn 20 percent more calories, you’ll jumpstart your mood for the entire day.
Bottom line: Start with 2-3 short walks first thing in the morning and work your way up to doing it daily (when weather and schedule permit).