What is serotonin, and what is it for?


In this article, I'll talk about what serotonin is, what it does, and the relationship between serotonin and depression.

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It is curious to think how something so small can influence our psychological well-being so much.

Great advances in scientific research have discovered a new essential element for human happiness: serotonin. This hormone produced by the nervous system is considered the biological basis of happiness, it is capable of transmitting information to our brain to make us feel all kinds of emotions related to joy and well-being.

In addition, it also modulates other types of feelings, such as aggressiveness or anxiety.

What is serotonin?

To learn what serotonin is and what it is for, we will have to rely on the latest research in the world of chemistry and psychology.

Serotonin Definition

We can define this substance as a hormone that our body produces (more specifically, it is produced in the intestines and in the brain) with the aim of maintaining emotional balance and a certain level of psychological well-being.

This hormone is a neurotransmitter whose chemical composition is 5-HT, which means that the signals it sends go directly to our nervous system and the message is transcribed there.

Serotonin: what is it?

Many scientists claim that serotonin is the hormone that regulates and modulates human emotions. It is considered the hormone of happiness for its effect on our mental states.

Along with other substances such as dopamine or adrenaline, it is responsible for balancing our mood. Serotonin is not only the hormone of happiness, it also fulfills the functions of controlling appetite, regulating sleep and intervening in the levels of libido and sexual desire.

Serotonin effects and function

Being considered a neurotransmitter, we understand that serotonin will have its main effect on the central nervous system. Scientific studies show that there is a profound relationship between low serotonin levels and mental disorders such as depression or stress.

In addition, appropriately high levels of this hormone produce pleasant feelings of psychological well-being.

Serotonin function

Broadly speaking, we can say that the main function of serotonin is to regulate well-being and psychological stability through the chemistry of our brain.

For this, the important thing is to maintain good levels of serotonin, avoiding depressions or serotonin syndrome (too much serotonin). In addition, it also invests in intestinal function through the enteric nervous system.

Serotonin and anxiety

One of the most curious effects that serotonin produces in our body is anxiety. Indeed, too high levels of this substance are related to the appearance of social anxiety disorder or social phobia.

On the other hand, there are numerous investigations that affirm that having low serotonin can be the cause of a generalized anxiety disorder.
  • How do we explain this phenomenon? At first glance, these appear to be contradictory data. However, these investigations only affirm that any imbalance in serotonin levels produces an imbalance in mental states of agitation and nervousness, either due to excess or lack of this hormone.

Does serotonin regulate sleep?

Another of the effects of serotonin in our body is the regulation of sleep. When we are awake, serotonin levels rise to keep us in a state of attention, when we enter the deepest phases of sleep, serotonin in the brain decreases considerably to allow our body and mind to rest properly.

There is a hormone that, together with serotonin, regulates the sleep-wake cycle of our body. This hormone is known as melatonin, and we can find it both in the body itself and outside of it, in food or in specific medications.

Having good sleep habits helps us maintain a correct balance between the production of serotonin and melatonin. As a consequence of this balance, we experience more pleasant emotions and obtain a high level of psychological well-being.

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Relationship between serotonin and depression

As we have been commenting throughout this article, the main function of serotonin in our body is the regulation of mood. The levels of this hormone must be maintained at normal values ​​in order to experience balanced emotions.

If the production of serotonin suffers some type of imbalance, we can experience discomfort, anger, irritability, risk behaviors... many of these symptoms coincide with depression, therefore, we can affirm that low serotonin levels are related to depression.

This relationship between serotonin and depression can occur in both directions: it may be that, due to bad external experiences, we begin to suffer from depression and this decreases serotonin levels (exogenous depression) or, On the contrary, our brain produces less serotonin hormones for happiness, which leads us to suffer from a mental disorder known as endogenous depression.

Natural serotonin and medications

Now that we know what serotonin is and what it is for. We may want to learn how to increase our serotonin levels naturally in order to achieve psychological well-being and emotional stability. To do this, I offer the following tips:

  • Maintain a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates. Nutrients from this family such as bread, wholemeal pasta or legumes contain an element called tryptophan. This substance helps our body produce more serotonin. Some of the foods that also increase our serotonin levels naturally are: pineapple, mango, chicken, soy, chocolate, strawberries, papaya...
  • Do a little exercise every day, not only will you increase your levels of endorphins (the hormone of pleasure and relaxation), in the long term you will feel better about yourself, and you will learn to strengthen your self-esteem.
  • Enjoy the little pleasures in life like watching a new movie, reading a good book or savoring your favorite dish of food. These small pleasures help us to live under positive emotions.
  • Relate to others: Attachment bonds are very important for the psychological growth of a person. Also, having good friends decreases the feeling of loneliness and makes us feel loved. Establishing a good social support network can also prevent many ailments and mental health problems.

Psychopharmaceutical products to increase serotonin

There are numerous medications that base their function on altering the serotonin levels in our body. The process for increasing serotonin has evolved, and today SSRIs dominate the pharmaceutical market.

SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are prescribed to treat many problems, such as borderline personality disorder or depression. These medications should only be taken under the prescription of a doctor and without abusing them.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.