Serotonin - Responsible for Depression?
Well not exactly, it's more like serotonin is involved in depression.
Serotonin is responsible for depression in the same way that food is responsible for hunger. If you have more food, the hunger will go away, but it didn't cause it in the first place!
Serotonin has come to the public's attention mostly because of the meteoric rise of SSRIs - Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, a type of antidepressant.
One antidepressant, Wellbutrin (generic name - bupropion) is known to have little effect on serotonin, but clinical studies claim that Wellbutrin is no less effective than any other antidepressant.
Despite this, now rife is the unfortunate and inaccurate idea that a lack of serotonin causes depression.
Serotonin is produced in the brain on an ongoing basis and in response to pleasure-giving experiences, in a normally healthy system.
But if that system becomes less than healthy, if it is depressed for example, serotonin levels can drop. But low levels didn't cause the depression!
(In a small percentage of people - estimated at less than 10% of depression cases, a low baseline level of serotonin can contribute to low mood.)
If you want to know what does cause depression, take the Depression Learning Path.
Serotonin, orgasm and SSRIs
One of the more depressing side effects of SSRIs is the inability to reach orgasm. This is because, when men or women have an orgasm, the levels of serotonin in one particular part of the brain have to drop quickly - the serotonin has to be 're-taken-up'.
But SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin - hence the problem.
Serotonin also plays a role in modulating your sleep patterns and controlling how much pain you perceive.
Less than 5% of the body's total amount of serotonin is found in the brain, the rest being distributed throughout the body. Therefore, SSRI's do not affect only the brain, by any means.