Serotonin Deficiency Symptoms You Can Identify Yourself

A serotonin deficiency can have you feeling pessimistic, sad, distrustful, or ready to have a panic attack.

serotonin deficiency

How does serotonin work? Adequate serotonin levels in the brain contribute to our feeling positive, happy, confident, and flexible. Low levels can lead to negative, worried, or irritable feelings.

© Syda Productions |

What is serotonin? It’s is a powerful brain chemical that profoundly affects your mood, so knowing whether you’re deficient is a key first step to overcoming troubling mood and impulse control problems. Having one or more of the eight serotonin deficiency symptoms discussed here will be a strong clue that you may indeed have a serotonin imbalance.

And what does serotonin do? Serotonin is one of the so-called inhibitory neurotransmitters that serve to balance any excessive excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitter (like dopamine) firing in the brain.

  • With adequate serotonin levels in the brain and its proper functioning, you will be positive, happy, confident, flexible, and easygoing.

Serotonin Deficiency Signs

What does serotonin do for the body? Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, has an excellent mood type self-exam that can help you determine whether you have a serotonin or a dopamine (norepinephrine) deficiency. You may want to take the exam, or another serotonin levels test, but we’ll cover below some of the primary ways you can determine whether you have low serotonin symptoms.

1. Is your depression negative in nature? That is, are your thoughts frequently pessimistic, gloomy, distrustful, and cynical? With low levels of serotonin, depression feelings can be dark and gloomy.

2. Are you a woman? Women have depression more often than men and when they do, serotonin deficiency is more often a factor than in men. On the other hand, when men become depressed, they seem to more often have dopamine deficiencies where their depression is expressed as apathy or lack of interest or lack of the ability to focus.

This doesn’t mean that men can’t have too little serotonin and women can’t have dopamine deficiency—they can—but the general tendency is the other way around. A study published in September 2007 in the journal Biological Psychiatry showed that men and women react to serotonin deficiency in different ways. The men became impulsive but not necessarily depressed. Women, on the other hand, experienced a marked drop in mood and became much more cautious, an emotional response commonly associated with depression.

The researchers conclude this may be why more women than men experience anxiety and mood disorders, while more men experience alcoholism, ADHD, and impulse control disorders. The message here is that women should especially be alert to the possibility of serotonin deficiency if they have clinical depression.

3. Do you crave sweets and starches—foods like breads and potato chips and any sugar-laden choices? These foods temporarily raise serotonin levels and make you feel better, so your body craves them. In the long run, though, they actually deplete serotonin levels and cause significant weight gain. Our blog post This is Your Brain on French Fries describes this harmful effect of processed carbs on the brain, but serotonin depletion is one of the main biochemical reasons behind the effect.

serotonin deficiency

Do you find yourself unable to find the “right” sleeping position? That’s just one of the symptoms of low serotonin. [Illustration: © Ladzha |]

4. Do you have significant insomnia issues?

Serotonin deficiency symptoms include waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep and having to sleep in many different positions in order to feel comfortable.

5. Do you have feelings of low self-esteem? That is, you’ve lost your confidence and sense of self worth, and you easily become critical of yourself or feel guilty about something you’re doing or not doing.

6. Do you often feel worried or apprehensive or have panic attacks? False fear is a telltale sign of a lack of serotonin and can manifest itself as phobia, worry, or even excessive shyness. There is a connection between low serotonin and anxiety.

7. Do you sometimes exhibit aggressive or violent behavior, even thoughts of suicide? Studies show that serotonin deficiency in the brain is associated with an increased susceptibility to impulsive behavior, aggression, overeating, alcohol abuse, and violent suicide.

8. Have you had any of the following disorders: Fibromyalgia (unexplained muscle pain), TMJ (pain, tension, and grinding associated with your jaw), migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, or asthma? Each of these conditions has low serotonin levels implicated as an associated cause, and studies have shown that raising serotonin levels improves the condition’s severity.

Do these serotonin deficiency symptoms sound like you? If so, it is likely your body has become depleted of adequate levels of this important neurotransmitter—serotonin. Restoring serotonin levels in the brain and making sure it is working properly are critical but doable steps in recovering from any of these conditions. Fortunately, the body’s store of serotonin can be restored back to healthy levels through a natural health protocol involving the use of a specific amino acid supplement.

Originally published in 2011, this post is regularly updated.

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  • I have all of these symptoms. I especially have problems with impulsivity, feelings of agression andaggitation. I am constantly nervous and have panic attacks. I also have been diagnosed with type one bipolar disorder.

  • I have all these symptoms and have had depression for 32 yrs. after menopause I crave sweets and feel better once I have a mouthful, but it only lasts an hour or so. I have panic attacks that are so bad that I black out. I’m always tired and fall asleep at anytime. I really sick of being fat and overweight.

  • I recently had test done and Serotonin came back low. After reading about it I have all of this, it explains my insomnia, depression, and self-harming tendencies that we have never been able to fix. I am very hopeful that treating this will help, I had no idea it was even linked to TMJ!

  • Another way to naturally build your serotonin levels without having to buy amino acid supplements is through the nutritional program designed by Dr Kathleen DesMaisons ( I have had immense success by following the steps of her program and changing my diet and raising my serotonin levels. It’s changed my life!

  • My daughter has all of the above. She has recently been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Her psychiatrist tells us that she has low serotonin levels and she is now on SSRI drugs. Can you tel me more about the body’s store of serotonin being restored back to healthy levels through a natural health protocol involving the use of a specific amino acid supplement.(as mentioned in your article) ?

  • Take L tryptophan with B6 1000mg to 2000mg per day. DO a 90 course your daughter will be different in a postive way. Also iodine and heavey metals play and imortant role in this and lastly your gut. Do research and if you need more info email me.

  • Recently I’ve been living in a house that we came to discover had a severe mold issue after multiple hospital visits with pneumonia. We’ve had testing done to see about mold and other toxins and things in our body, one of the things that showed up for me was that my brain chemicals specifically Gaba and serotonin are very low. Apparently the brain chemical norepinephrine is higher now and me trying to balance things out I suppose. I don’t know what doctor to turn to my internal medicine guy doesn’t know what to do and neither do I I would appreciate any ideas you might have thank you in advance.

  • I have unexplained pins,needles and numbness in the arm and legs and extend to the face. This is also accompanied by heaviness of the tongue and painful swallowing. I also get neck tension & headaches and annxiety. Waiting for serotonin results. Hope for a diagnosis and cure

  • my sister has depression,anxiety,panic attacks just to name a few, since 1990 after my father passed away, she is aon several meds., cries very emotional and lonely I can’t see any beneficial changes in her I feel bad for her and get together with her as much as possible, would love to recieve your book ,on depression and I would love to see what it has to offer! when dealing with a depressed person it’s like walking on eggs! her meds . make her sleep for long periods so she tries to prolong taking certain ones as long as possible, love your professional inputs and articles! m ansara

  • You could add to the list of symptoms increased religiosity, spirituality or magical thinking. Those are also associated with lowered serotonin levels.

  • I have had insomnia,anxiety,cravings,low self esteem. I finally got will power to eat right, so losing inches,yet still not happy,very tired during day, I’m in bed ,9:30, up 5 mabey. But no motivation, no focus on anything. not much happiness yet.

  • I’ve been an absolute MESS for close to 30 years..Doctor after doctor.HORRIBLE cronic constipation,grinding my teeth,Tinitis,[One of the symptoms..] headaches,insomnia,stomach pain,dry mouth,difficulty breathing,obesity,terrible joint pain,the list goes on..I JUST started taking L-Tryptophan SEVEN HOURS ago,I feel better already..I made one bad mistake,I was so bad for so long,I took 4 capsules instead of 2,WORST stomach cramps I’ve ever had.. TRY THIS..May have saved my life..

  • The popular serotonin-as-the-happiness-molecule theory was launched and marketed by corporate medicine.

    Yet a sizable volume of sound research studies demonstrated that increasing serotonin and tryptophan either with drugs or supplements (not food because food’s unlikely to significantly raise tryptophan or serotonin in the brain) is linked to brain dysfunction, stress hormone release, cognitive deficits, inflammation, impaired blood circulation in the brain, hypertension, cancer, and other less than “happy” effects – search online for the scholarly report”Tryptophan Side Effects: L-Tryptophan Is Far From Harmless”

    The “serotonin-happiness” mantra, just like the mechanistic simplistic “chemical imbalance” idea, are almost entirely all-too convenient inventions of the medical-pharma business, which allowed them to sell their highly profitable antidepressant drugs, such as SSRIs, while causing massive human destruction. And for agents of the natural medicine industry to sell tryptophan and 5HTP supplements.

  • hi my doctor said my serotonin level is low and thats why my legs are hurting he gave me depression pills and i took them my legs stopped hurting i stopped taking the pills because i felt weird on them and my leg pain is back can someone help me

  • I have been having all of these symptoms! The past few months I’ve been clean, I used to do Molly A lot. (Please don’t think I’m some crazy drug addict, I’m not i did it for a month and it completely ruined my life)I started to realize i wasn’t myself anymore, I can’t sleep anymore I constantly think people are judging me I’m so shy when i NEVER used to be like this. I’m constantly grinding my teeth. I’m ALWAYS sweating, i feel like I have weird breathing habits. I have trouble sleeping, i either don’t eat for days or I eat non stop! Me and my boyfriend used to be so close, the best of friends and now all we do is fight and half the time it’s just me overly stressed and overwhelmed about everything that i take it out on him. I just want to be normal again 🙁 I’m so sick of feeling so down and overthink about everything and constantly stuck in my thoughts I’m not interested in any of the hobbies that i had i don’t hang out with my friends anymore i barely talk to my family anymore. I want to get help but i don’t even know where to start or who to talk to, I’m only 20 years old and i just need some guidance.

  • My serotonin is depleted after long history of coffee abuse. I could really got high on coffee. But then due to media stories of anti-cancer benefits of coffe I started abusing it and forcing intake (3 cups a day was quite hard at start). After some time all pleasure from workouts coffee, recreation or even rest simply vanished. My body was in a constant up state with constant memory loss and anhedonia. Got somewhat better after dropping all carbs to vegan-non processed food diet and dropping coffee and forcing myself to workouts, especially long bike/orbitrek runs (10km+) and static strength exercises. tryptophan improved mood, 5htp I’m not sure. I guess they work best when taken separately. Without dropping coffee its a fools game, with dropping all sugars except fruits, dropping beverages and processed foods it is a long run to take. I require around 8-9 hours of sleep time, had kinda like ibs symptoms and teeth grinding through my whole life. It is a multi-front campaign. IBS symptoms almost completely vanish if you cut all sugars and coffee and do some heavy strength workouts. Other good practices – better to take herbs than chemicals, better take protein powder (either animal or plant) than meats, better blend fresh fruits than buy sweets and juices, better eat nuts than crackers or chips. Salt is actually necessary in small doses. No animal-based foods, first of all meats are incredibly over-processed up to the point you can call alot of what you can buy a trash food (not that meat is wrong on a principle of some sort), same about dairy which is pumped with preservatives sugars, etc. Sweating, breathing “arythmia” is all a problem with lack of cardio and strength- do the soak-runs of 12km 3 times per week for at least a month, practice plank-type exercises with 3-5 minutes in one position, same about weigthened exercises. take b vitamin suplements, omega-3 (greenland shark oil), drink around 2 liters of water daily, if you feel to weak take DHEA, sulbutiamine (very rarely, tolerance builds quickly) or amp citrate (like sulbutiamine tolerance builds rapidly). Practice fasting -like 6 days of undereating, one day of overeating with all the beverages you normally want to eat

  • more of that – take d3 supplement (6000 units daily max), practice sunbathing and outdoor activity when the sun is clearly visible, perform forced relaxations – lay down for an hour during day to rest after and before work and do nothing try to forget about everything for an hour and even try to sleep if you need to, if you can’t – meditate then.

  • This has been a most informative site. Just reading about the possibility of increased happiness has given me a boost. Thank you so much !!

    • Thank you Gregory for your comment. There are a lot of ways to increase level of serotonin for example B vitamins supplements or exercise.

  • Tremendous things here. I am very glad to look your article.

    Thank you a lot and I’m looking forward to touch you.
    Will you please drop me a e-mail?

  • hey there, i know i am kind of late but still i wanted to share. i was planning doing research related to serotonin. i’ve read that peppermint essential oil helps to boost memory and mood;helpful to overcome depression. doing exercise also helpful especially a heavy one. do expose yourself to sunlight. and drink some milk. hope you all will be recovering. remember,do more physical activity instead of taking lots of drugs. thankyou.

  • I have never smoked, nor had an ash tray in my home, if someone wanted to smoke I would tell them to do it outside. I was shocked when diagnosed as COPD. I know the place I last lived in allowed smoking I know I can go to find a lawyer too. I was very upset because the Pulmonary Dr.

  • Me and my daughter both have these problems. at time the can become so over whelming you feel hopeless. this is the answer to our pray

  • We have got a lot of help from doctors who practice what they call functional medicine. They test serotonin levels by a urine sample. They run lots of other tests to get to the root cause of your problem. The one we go to saved my daughter’s life, literally, when other doctors couldn’t find the problem.

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