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What Is the Role of Neurotransmitters in Depression?

Neurotransmitters are the brain's chemical messengers, crucial in regulating mood and emotions. In depression, imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine can disrupt communication between neurons, leading to symptoms like sadness and apathy. Understanding this intricate dance of chemicals can unlock new pathways to treatment. How might rebalancing these messengers alleviate the weight of depression? Join us to uncover the answers.
Jennifer Long
Jennifer Long

Research about the brain, nervous system, and psychological or mood disorders has provided information about neurotransmitters and their influences. These transmitters are an endogenous chemical, which means they are made inside the body. There are many neurotransmitters that are made by different cells, but there are three neurotransmitters that are known to affect mental functions: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Each of these chemicals influences depression in different manners, whether alone or together, and have roles in how mood, pleasure, and sleep are regulated.

Neurotransmitters are message chemicals. They have the main function of carrying messages between cells. Neurotransmitters travel from one neuron, down the synapse, and to the receptor of a neighboring neuron. There are different types of cells in the body, and each type of cell produces different neurotransmitters. A link in the role of neurotransmitters in depression has been found through research studies.

A reduction in the neurotransmitter dopamine can result in depression.
A reduction in the neurotransmitter dopamine can result in depression.

Dopamine is one possible contributor to the role of neurotransmitters in depression. This neurotransmitter affects mood and pleasure. Increases in dopamine levels lead to prolonged exposure. Studies have shown that receptors in the brain caused regulatory proteins to become inactive, resulting in a depressed state when a person is exposed to stress. A reduction in dopamine levels can also cause the development of depression.

For many people suffering from depression, multiple neurotransmitters may be involved.
For many people suffering from depression, multiple neurotransmitters may be involved.

Another known contributor to the role of neurotransmitters in depression is norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter regulates the stress response. While low levels of norepinephrine can cause depression, not every person who suffers from depression will have low levels. Some people will have a decrease in norepinephrine, but not enough to lead to depression. In these cases, serotonin has an effect on norepinephrine levels.

Serotonin influences the role of neurotransmitters in depression.
Serotonin influences the role of neurotransmitters in depression.

As another influence on the role of neurotransmitters in depression, serotonin can contribute to depression in two ways. On its own, decreases in serotonin levels can cause severe depression. In some cases, suicidal tendencies have been caused by a drop in serotonin levels. Serotonin can also influence norepinephrine levels. Some patients will have a drop in serotonin that also causes a drop in norepinephrine levels.

At the end of a nerve cell, neurotransmitters pass a signal message across the synapse to the next nerve cell.
At the end of a nerve cell, neurotransmitters pass a signal message across the synapse to the next nerve cell.

Neurotransmitters are typically supposed to rely on each other to maintain a balance in the body. Unfortunately, a problem with one neurotransmitter can play a large role in neurotransmitters in depression cases. A chain reaction occurs. For many people who suffer from depression, multiple neurotransmitters are causing symptoms. As a result of research, doctors now know why some people do not respond to medications that target only one neurotransmitter.

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Discussion Comments

burcinc

@literally45-- So are you saying that problems with neurotransmitters are temporary? Because I know that drug abuse for example can cause permanent changes in the neurotransmitters in the brain.

literally45

@ZipLine-- Neurotransmitters definitely play a role in depression, I don't deny that. But I don't think that we can explain everything with neurotransmitters either. Changes in neurotransmitters can make us feel depressed, but there is an external factor that's causing them to change. We weren't born with depression were we?

ZipLine

I didn't know about the role of neurotransmitters in depression until I was prescribed a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. This medication works so well for me. It started showing effects right away and my depression symptoms are completely gone now after six months of use.

It's a shock for me because I was convinced that the cause of my depression was my current job. I don't like my job too much. But ever since I started taking this medication which increases the amount of available serotonin in my brain, I feel happy and content. I guess a serotonin imbalance was my problem.

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    • A reduction in the neurotransmitter dopamine can result in depression.
      By: Monkey Business
      A reduction in the neurotransmitter dopamine can result in depression.
    • For many people suffering from depression, multiple neurotransmitters may be involved.
      By: ivolodina
      For many people suffering from depression, multiple neurotransmitters may be involved.
    • Serotonin influences the role of neurotransmitters in depression.
      By: snyggg.de
      Serotonin influences the role of neurotransmitters in depression.
    • At the end of a nerve cell, neurotransmitters pass a signal message across the synapse to the next nerve cell.
      By: ThorstenSchmitt
      At the end of a nerve cell, neurotransmitters pass a signal message across the synapse to the next nerve cell.