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Neurotransmitters and Mental Health: Understanding the Impact

What are neurotransmitters
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology
Reviewer:

Dr. David Toomey

DO

Content

More than 100 types of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters are found throughout the human body. They are crucial for maintaining brain functioning and help control various body processes, including hunger, respiration, and heart rate.

In addition to regulating physiological processes, neurotransmitters also serve psychological purposes, including learning and controlling emotions like fear, pleasure, and happiness. Read on to learn more about the link between neurotransmitters and mental health.

Are you experiencing any mental agitation? We are here to help manage it.

What are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are components of the nervous system, and your body cannot function without them. They are essential to many body processes and human development as they enhance and balance signals in the brain.

Neurotransmitters transport chemical “messages” from one neuron (nerve cell) to the subsequent target cell. The target cell may be a gland, muscle, or nerve cell.

Our brains constantly control everything from breathing to heartbeat to learning and concentration levels with the help of billions of neurotransmitter molecules.

What Do Neurotransmitters Do?

The nervous system regulates the body’s organs and participates in almost every physical process. Neurotransmitters in the brain are crucial components of this system.

  • A nerve cell sends an impulse, showing the need to deliver a message to another cell.
  • The impulse stimulates the release of neurotransmitters.
  • Neurotransmitters move from the initial cell to the target cell and deliver the message.

In short, neurotransmitters help your cells communicate. They move between cells, bind to particular brain receptors, and cause the target cells to act when they connect. There are various receptors that each neurotransmitter binds to. Dopamine molecules, for instance, bind to dopamine receptors.

Neurotransmitters Function

Neurotransmitters are essential for the brain to regulate various crucial processes, such as:

  • Blood pressure and heartbeat.
  • Breathing.
  • Movement of muscles.
  • Feelings, memories, learning, and thoughts.
  • Aging, healing, and sleep.
  • Stress reaction.
  • Hormone control.
  • Digestion.
  • Senses (reaction to what you see, hear, feel, touch, and taste).

Consult a physician to obtain medicine or psychological support for any mental health issue.

Types of Neurotransmitters

Over 100 neurotransmitters have been identified by specialists, and more are being found. These neurotransmitters are divided into three main categories according to their function:

  1. Inhibitory neurotransmitters lessen the likelihood that the target cell will act by preventing the chemical message from being passed further.
  2. Excitatory neurotransmitters compel a target cell to activate by firing off neurons that continue to transmit the chemical message.
  3. Modulatory neurotransmitters can simultaneously communicate with numerous neurons.

These three categories have hundreds of different neurotransmitters. The most common ones are acetylcholine, endorphins, dopamine, GABA, and serotonin.

What do neurotransmitters do

What Role Do Neurotransmitters Play in Mental Health?

A neurotransmitter imbalance contributes to mental health problems. If the chemical mechanism of communication between the brain and body is disrupted in any manner, patients are likely to experience one or more of the symptoms that we commonly connect with mental illnesses.

For example, reduced serotonin levels [1*] are believed to have a role in cases of depression. Similarly, abnormal dopamine levels have been linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia [2*] and ADHD [3*] . These are only two illustrations. In truth, neurotransmitter imbalances or deficiencies lead to a wide range of additional potential symptoms and effects. They can influence food cravings, cause impulsive behavior, make people moody, and much more.

Make an ADHD online appointment with an expert to develop a customized treatment strategy for your mental condition.

Neurotransmitters Related to Mental Health

The most well-known neurotransmitters associated with mental disorders are described in the following section.

Neurotransmitters

Associated functions

Serotonin

  • It affects mood, behavior, sleep, and memory regulation.

  • Depression and other mental health conditions are linked to low serotonin levels.

  • Numerous drugs prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders frequently work to raise the brain’s serotonin levels.

GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid)

  • Primary inhibitor of the central nervous system.

  • It is a mood stabilizer, and low levels of it are connected to schizophrenia, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

  • Drugs known as “benzos,” or benzodiazepines, can be used to relieve anxiety. They function by enhancing GABA activity. These drugs have soothing effects.

Epinephrine

  • Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) plays a role in the body’s “fight-or-flight” response.

  • When a person experiences stress or fear, their body releases epinephrine.

Endorphins

  • They reduce pain signals.

  • Induce a feeling of pleasure.

  • They are associated with happiness and are released during activities such as having delicious meals, romance, sex, and more.

Dopamine

  • Neurotransmitter dopamine is crucial in controlling blood flow, behavior, memory, and learning.

  • Dopamine is a chemical that the brain releases when engaging in enjoyable activities.

  • Having too much dopamine concentrated in some areas of the brain while having insufficient dopamine in others is associated with physical, behavioral, and cognitive effects.

Acetylcholine

  • It affects motivation, memory, and concentration.

  • Acetylcholine deficiency has been linked to memory and cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s disease [4*] .

  • A few drugs for Alzheimer’s disease slow the body’s natural process of acetylcholine degradation. This may be able to aid with symptoms like memory loss.

To Conclude

Numerous important molecules that, when produced in the wrong amounts, are likely to cause mental health issues. However, health professionals are still researching the complex connections between neurotransmitters and mental health.

If you have any mental health problems, get professional help. Contact MEDvidi doctors if you experience any disturbing symptoms.

Sources

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4 sources
  1. Serotonin receptors in depression: from A to B. (2017)
    Source link
  2. The Role of Dopamine in Schizophrenia from a Neurobiological and Evolutionary Perspective: Old Fashioned, but Still in Vogue. (2014)
    Source link
  3. Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and reward deficiency syndrome. (2008)
    Source link
  4. Role of Cholinergic Signaling in Alzheimer’s Disease. (2022)
    Source link
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology
Reviewer:

Dr. David Toomey

DO
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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.