The Link Between Low Serotonin and Depression – Symptoms and Treatment Options

Research has shown that low levels of serotonin in the brain can lead to the development of depression symptoms. This neurotransmitter is responsible for regulating mood, appetite, and sleep patterns. When serotonin levels are low, it can lead to a decrease in your overall sense of well-being.

In this post, we will explore the link between low serotonin and the symptoms of depression and discuss some effective treatment options.

Symptoms of Low Serotonin

Low serotonin levels in the brain can lead to a range of emotional and physical symptoms. These can include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • Lack of energy and fatigue
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

It’s important to note that these symptoms can be signs of other conditions as well. To receive an accurate diagnosis, it’s essential to speak to a healthcare professional who can evaluate your symptoms, medical history, and overall mental health.

Treatment Options

The good news is that depression symptoms, even when caused by low serotonin levels, are treatable.

Here are some treatment options that can help:


Medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain, such as SSRIs, are often prescribed to individuals who have low serotonin levels and depression. SSRIs work by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter, allowing it to remain in the synapse for a longer duration, which can improve your mood and overall sense of well-being.

SSRIs are considered to be one of the most common and effective classes of antidepressants. They are widely prescribed and are known to have milder side effects than other types of antidepressants. These medications typically take a few weeks to start working, and it’s important to take them as prescribed, even if you start feeling better. Stopping medication without consulting with a healthcare professional can cause a relapse in depression symptoms or withdrawal.

It’s also crucial to note that individuals prescribed SSRIs should also be vigilant about potential drug interactions, particularly avoiding the combination with opioids, as it not only diminishes the effectiveness of the medication but can also lead to opioid withdrawal symptoms. Always consult with a healthcare professional to ensure a safe and effective treatment plan.

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It’s essential to remember that medications can have side effects, and the effects can vary from person to person. Some common side effects of SSRIs can include dizziness, headaches, nausea, and insomnia. Individuals taking SSRIs may also experience sexual dysfunction or weight gain. However, these side effects are typically mild or temporary and will subside over time.

It’s important to speak with a medical professional to determine if medication is the right choice for you. They might conduct a detailed evaluation of your medical history and current symptoms to determine if there are any medical conditions that might prevent you from taking SSRIs. Additionally, they will provide information on the right dosage, timing, or frequency of consuming the medication.


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a widely recognized and effective form of talk therapy used to treat depression symptoms and low serotonin levels. It works by exploring the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and aims to teach you strategies to change negative thought patterns and behaviours. The ultimate goal is to help build healthy coping mechanisms and reduce negative emotions associated with depression.

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CBT is typically a time-limited treatment that can be delivered in individual or group therapy sessions. It involves identifying negative thoughts and behaviours, questioning their accuracy and challenging them with more positive and realistic alternatives. CBT helps individuals to learn how to deal with stress, anxiety, or other symptoms related to depression by using problem-solving strategies, behavioural techniques, and relaxation skills.

One of the main advantages of CBT is that it teaches skills that individuals can use on their own, without the need for ongoing therapy. CBT can help you to monitor your mood swings, develop new cognitive patterns regarding your emotions, and guide you in breaking negative patterns that might lead to depression, while reinforcing positive ones. It can also be combined with medication treatment or used as a standalone therapy.

CBT can help individuals develop a better sense of control over their life circumstances and build healthy boundaries. It can have significant long-term benefits, including reduced symptoms, improved functioning, and the prevention of future episodes of depression.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are important options for treating low serotonin levels and depression. They are easy to incorporate into daily routines and can have a positive impact on mental health.

Incorporating these lifestyle changes into your routine can have a significant impact on your emotional well-being. However, it’s important to remember that they are not a substitute for professional treatment, such as medication or therapy.

Eating a healthy diet

Consuming a diet rich in tryptophan can increase serotonin levels in the brain, in the process reducing depression symptoms. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that plays a key role in serotonin synthesis. Foods that are high in tryptophan include turkey, chicken, fish, dairy, tofu, nuts, and seeds. It’s also important to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Regular exercise

Exercise is an effective way to increase endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood. Even moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, can have a positive impact on mental health. Aim to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity, most days of the week.

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Exposure to sunlight

Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light can also help increase serotonin levels in the brain. Sunlight helps to trigger the release of serotonin, which can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. It’s important to spend time outdoors, especially during the morning and midday when sunlight is the strongest, while taking precautions to avoid overexposure.

Relaxation techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce stress and improve mental health. These techniques can help calm the mind and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Final Thoughts on Low Serotonin Symptoms

Low serotonin levels can contribute to the development of depression, a common mental health condition that can impact your quality of life. Overall, increasing your serotonin levels and treating depression requires a holistic approach. By combining medication (if necessary), therapy, and positive lifestyle changes, you can improve your overall sense of well-being and take control of your mental health.

Important information for anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please act immediately. Contact a mental health professional or call a suicide hotline in your area.

In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources.

You can call the Lifeline at +1 800 273 8255. They also have a chat function on their website that you can use if you do not feel like talking.

In Canada, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention provides resources and support to those affected by suicide.

In the United Kingdom you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Helpline or call them on 0800 689 5652.

If you are in another country, please visit this page for a list of international suicide hotlines.

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