Not feeling yourself lately? Does life seem a bit harder than it used to? There are many reasons why you might be experiencing a downswing in your mood. And one reason could be a decrease in levels of serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter — a chemical substance that transmits messages between your nerves and synapses. It plays an important role in your overall health, affecting your movement, learning, memory, mood, and behavior, among other things.
Simply put, if you have low levels of serotonin, numerous systems in your body won’t function properly. Some symptoms of low serotonin levels are more serious than others and reflect the degree to which your body may be deprived of this crucial chemical. Here are five symptoms to keep an eye out for.
There are many reasons why you might experience anxiety. It’s common to experience this feeling if you live in an unstable environment or have had a traumatic experience. However, if you’ve been feeling anxious lately with no clear cause, it may be a sign you have low serotonin.
Anxiety may manifest differently for various people. But usually, it presents as a feeling of deep unease, worry, or fear, that increases with stress. Chronic stress can be especially damaging to serotonin levels, producing more anxious feelings. If you’ve been overworking or not taking care of your body, the anxiety you’re feeling may be due to low serotonin levels. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and can help with falling asleep if done before bed.
Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand, and repeated, long-term experiences of anxious feelings can lead to depression. But where anxiety usually manifests as sharp feelings of panic or worry, depression is often deeper, slower, and more lethargic. Depression can manifest as a sense of defeat and hopelessness about life in general rather than about any particular thing.
Similar to anxiety, depression can be caused and exacerbated by low serotonin levels. Chronic stress and trauma can often trigger initial instances of depression. It can be difficult to surmount and may require mental health treatment to finally overcome. But as challenging and taxing as living with depression can be, it is possible to recover. If you suspect you’re experiencing depression, reach out and consult with a medical professional.
3. Poor Sleep
One of the most immediate effects of low serotonin levels is an inability to get good sleep. That’s because serotonin helps regulate your circadian rhythm. That’s your body’s way of naturally helping you fall in and out of sleep. Without proper serotonin levels, your rhythm gets thrown off, and you’ll have trouble both falling and staying asleep.
Think back on the past few weeks and consider how well or poorly you slept. If you have been tossing or turning or waking at odd hours, it could be a sign that your serotonin is low. This symptom can be particularly brutal, as the quality of your sleep affects your overall health. Sleep is one of the most effective ways for the body to heal itself, so without it, everything else gets thrown off. If you can, start prioritizing getting a full eight hours of sleep every night and see if you start to improve.
4. Poor Concentration
Have you been feeling unfocused lately? Is it more difficult than usual to accomplish tasks in a timely fashion? Difficulty paying attention is another symptom of depleted serotonin levels. Balanced serotonin levels are important for maintaining your ability to concentrate. When they’re low, it can be harder to focus for long periods, which can have serious consequences.
Memory loss and difficulty learning are two common side effects of chronic attention disruption. Your mind needs to have sustained periods of focus to be able to retain information, both short and long-term. Learning involves recalling and applying retained information, so it’s harder to learn if you struggle with memory. If you’ve been feeling foggy-headed lately and struggling to remember details, you might be low on serotonin.
5. Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is another symptom you might experience if your serotonin is running low. This pain can manifest in various areas of your body, sometimes in the form of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is often characterized by continuous pain, increased sensitivity to pain, and fatigue. It’s difficult to live with and can begin or perpetuate already present symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Although fibromyalgia most commonly affects females, it can also affect males. Because of its prevalence in females, fibromyalgia is a low-serotonin symptom that can be misdiagnosed in males. So don’t be discouraged if you get misdiagnosed. If and when you begin to treat your serotonin levels, see if the treatment alleviates your body pain.
A Vicious Cycle
As you might notice, many symptoms of low serotonin levels feed into each other. A lack of sleep can bring on feelings of anxiety and depression, which may further manifest in symptoms like fibromyalgia. Then the pain from fibromyalgia can make it harder to sleep.
These symptoms may also fluctuate in intensity, so you might feel fine one day yet be completely downtrodden the next. Record the levels of pain or distress you’re experiencing, so you can track it objectively over time. This will help you decide if you need to see a medical professional to rebalance your serotonin.