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What are the Common Causes of Chemical Imbalances in the Brain?

Chemical imbalances in the brain can stem from genetics, stress, poor nutrition, and lack of sleep. These factors disrupt neurotransmitter levels, affecting mood and cognition. Hormonal changes and certain medications also play a role. Understanding these triggers is key to managing mental health. How might lifestyle adjustments improve your brain chemistry? Join us as we explore these connections further.
Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

Chemical imbalances in the brain may stem from a variety of causes including a brain tumor, the death of important brain cells, an anxiety disorder, medication or drug abuse, or it may even be congenital. A chemical imbalance may cause minor or major personality and mood changes, as well as mental illness. When brain chemistry is altered, a person experiences a wide range of distressing symptoms. In some cases, medication can help reverse or control chemical changes and return a person to normal or near normal functioning, but some imbalances have a permanent adverse impact on a person’s life.

When brain cells die, a person develops symptoms indicative of illnesses like Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases. This is because cell death initiates chemical imbalances in the brain, which commonly lead to a further decline in cognition, motor skills and reflexes. For instance, in Parkinson’s disease, the death of brain cells decreases the production of the brain chemical dopamine, which interrupts neurotransmitter communication and creates symptoms such as body tremors and declining control over body movements.

A brain tumor could cause imbalances in the brain.
A brain tumor could cause imbalances in the brain.

Brain tumors may also cause imbalances in the brain. Tumors may be cancerous or benign, but their mere presence in the brain can interrupt chemical production and trigger unique symptoms. These symptoms often include changes in mood and personality, and may even include hallucinations, disorientation and delusions. With proper treatment, chemistry changes initiated by a brain tumor can often be restored.

Chemical imbalances may be present in young children.
Chemical imbalances may be present in young children.

Anxiety disorders are frequently caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. This imbalance may develop as the result of stress, trauma, abuse or a brain tumor. Each of these is capable of altering brain chemistry and triggering symptoms which may include panic attacks, excessive sweating and social withdrawal. Changes leading to mental illness can affect men and women at any age. Anxiety disorders are frequently treated with therapeutic intervention and medications created to help restore the chemical balance in the brain.

Altered brain chemistry may lead to mental illness.
Altered brain chemistry may lead to mental illness.

Chemical imbalances may also be present at birth. The symptoms of such an imbalance may or may not be apparent in young children. Often, imbalances are not diagnosed until they begin to affect a person’s life via mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Researchers studying the effects of chemicals in the brain have discovered that individuals suffering from mental illness usually have one or more family members suffering from the same or a closely related mental illness.

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Discussion Comments


Anon... It is not wise to state a theory as false without proper evidence. Especially when there is evidence to prove otherwise. You do make good suggestions when it comes deducing the source of an individual's problems; however, in the medical field it is unwise to blatantly tell the public something is false and to avoid medication. There are men and women who put in years of education and take an oath to do no harm. If a Doctor believes it's in their patients best interest to try a medication it should be respected as sound advice. Especially if the patient has continued to suffer from mental dysfunction even after a healthy lifestyle. I would suggest to those that read this article to understand what a theory is and to research statistics involving its reliability.


All this talk of chemical imbalances and the medical profession has no idea of how to measure chemicals in the brain. Stay away from any medication that says it will alter your brain chemistry. Try natural therapies such exercise, sunlight, good diet and a healthy social and work life. If you need help to achieve this, try a psychoanalyst to help sort out what the problem is.


The chemical imbalance theory is false.


I am no expert, but I have heard that depression is a chemical imbalance caused from serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is like our happy hormone. It is our natural feel good neurotransmitter that basically controls our happiness.

If you need a serotonin booster, physical exercise is probably the easiest and most beneficial at improving those weak neurotransmitters.

But some other things you can do is to make sure you get enough rest, take your vitamins especially B complex, eat a healthy diet, stay away from drugs and alcohol and get plenty of natural sunlight.


@Markus - No one likes standing in long lines especially when you're short on time, but to answer your question, yes, stress may be what causes a chemical imbalance in the brain that in return causes you to react that way.

There are a number of causes for stress and anxiety disorders. It could be triggered from a traumatic event, low self-esteem, substance abuse, prescription medications or an hereditary disorder from a family member.

Whatever your background is that is causing you this unusual nervous tension, there are several treatment options available to you. Talk to your physician about your panic attacks and ask if he or she thinks it is a symptom of a chemical imbalance in the brain. They will know what to do and how to help you from there.


Sometimes when I'm standing in a long line and I have to be somewhere else in a certain amount of time, I get really stressed out. It's almost like a panic attack or something.

I usually end up running back to my car and having to take several deep breaths before I can function again. Does stress cause a chemical imbalance in the brain or is this a normal reaction to unbearably long lines?

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    • A brain tumor could cause imbalances in the brain.
      By: sudok1
      A brain tumor could cause imbalances in the brain.
    • Chemical imbalances may be present in young children.
      By: sonsedskaya
      Chemical imbalances may be present in young children.
    • Altered brain chemistry may lead to mental illness.
      By: sebra
      Altered brain chemistry may lead to mental illness.
    • Excessive sweating may be a sign of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
      By: dandaman
      Excessive sweating may be a sign of a chemical imbalance in the brain.