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The effect of serotonin on depression

Research has proven time and time again that neurotransmitters, like serotonin, can have an impact on our mood. Moreover, they have an important role to play in the occurrence of and the recovery from depression.

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What is serotonin?

Serotonin is known by most as the neurotransmitter that helps us sleep, digest and eat. But actually, it bears a greater responsibility: getting messages from one part of the brain to another. This type of neurotransmitter is created inside the brain, but most of it is located in the stomach and intestines.

What does serotonin do?

Serotonin affects the entire body, ranging from your mood and emotions to the functioning of your muscles. That means it can affect your mood, anxiety, stress levels, and behaviour noticeably. When serotonin levels are low, it could result in depression.

However, serotonin is also responsible for making you nauseous and helping you get ready to go to sleep or wake up (depending on the area your serotonin is sending messages to and the serotonin receptor that is involved). In addition to that, it allows you to heal wounds by facilitating blood clotting, influences the strength of your bones and controls your libido.

The link between serotonin and depression

Depression can be caused by serotonin when the latter’s levels are out of balance. That could be caused by one of two things: the serotonin might not be received properly in some areas of your brain or your brain might not be producing enough serotonin in general. The imbalance could lead to several mental health issues, among which depression.

Some researchers believe the activity of neurotransmitters slows down with age, thereby increasing the probability of being diagnosed with mental illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

The effects of disrupted serotonin levels

Normal serotonin levels (generally 101 - 283 nanograms per mililiter) should leave you feeling calm, happy, focused and stable. But people who suffer from depression often have lower levels of serotonin. In addition, low serotonin levels have also been linked to anxiety and insomnia.

How to balance your serotonin levels

Low serotonin levels don’t necessarily cause depression but one of the most effective treatments for depression is increasing serotonin. Using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is one of the more common and effective medication treatments for depression.

They do, however, take some time (6 to 8 weeks in general) to work. That suggests that increasing serotonin alone isn’t necessarily enough to combat depression and you might need additional simultaneous therapy.


Nutrition cannot completely balance your serotonin, but it could contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Increasing your tryptophan intake, the amino acid responsible for creating serotonin, and your vitamin B-6 intake, which can influence the rate at which tryptophan is converted into serotonin, can help you boost serotonin levels. But remember that nutrition alone wouldn’t be enough to cure your mental illness.


Healthy movement can help you improve your mood. It can even be as effective as antidepressant medication or therapy sessions. Just 40 minutes of movement can improve your mood already. However, this effect doesn’t necessarily happen because exercise balances your serotonin levels.



Medication that helps you recover from depression often includes a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). They’re known as selective because they only affect serotonin levels, and don’t influence any other neurotransmitters.

SSRIs boost serotonin levels inside the brain by keeping your body from reabsorbing the chemical into neurons. That means your serotonin will be available and active for a longer time, helping it deliver messages between neurons.

Even though antidepressants can be effective, we usually aim for a more sustainable way of healing at U-center. Our mental health professionals prefer a therapy-based approach. If you are already taking antidepressants, we can help you decrease your intake and progress towards having a life free of antidepressants through therapy and professional support.

Recovery at U-center

Balancing your serotonin levels and recovering from any mental illness isn’t something you can do overnight and is often not something you can do on your own. That’s where U-center comes in: our mental health professionals have extensive expertise in helping people recover from mental illnesses. After all, every patient that walks through our doors is an individual and is treated as such.

Based on your needs, your mental health issues and your background history, we’ll set up a personalised treatment programme, helping you take the first vital steps towards recovery.

Feel free to contact one of our experts for more information or learn more about admission at U-center. We’d be happy to help.