Last week we talked about depression vs. sadness. Sadness is a natural response to events that happen in life (a loved one’s death, a break up, losing a job, divorce, etc) and gets better over time whereas clinical depression is caused from an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters. People who are clinically depressed do not experience sadness and happiness like other people– their symptoms can last for weeks or months on end making it tough to feel good or “normal.” Depression has a wide range of symptoms, but there is medication that can help. If you are not clinically depressed, antidepressants will not work for you. Let’s talk about the three types of neurotransmitters and what happens when they are imbalanced.
Low Serotonin: Those with low serotonin will tend to have anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or out-of-proportion anger. We can prescribe a serotonin-increasing medication called an SSRI.
Low Dopamine: Those with low dopamine tend to have addiction issues like gambling, smoking, or drinking, and may gravitate toward extreme sports that may be dangerous yet exciting.
Low Norepinephrine: Those with low levels of norepinephrine tend to have depression that comes with extreme pain and chronic fatigue.
Selecting the proper antidepressant is incredibly important as we want to make sure we are targeting the appropriate neurotransmitter imbalance. (If you break your leg, putting a cast on your arm won’t help!) Fortunately through in-depth conversation about your lifestyle and symptoms we can pinpoint which neurotransmitter (or neurotransmitters) is imbalanced. If your doctor asks you two questions and hands you a prescription, this is no good. Doctors need to truly understand your day-to-day lifestyle so they can treat you appropriately. We will listen to you, take the time needed, and expect your honesty about symptoms and lifestyle.