The most popular treatments for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome include increasing the available levels of serotonin, which is best known as a neurotransmitter but also acts as a hormone. SSRI/SNRI drugs do it, supplements such as SAM-e and 5-HTP do it, and some frequently recommended foods do it.
And yet, serotonin levels (and neurotransmitter levels in general) aren't something doctors test for outside of a research environment. In prescribing these medications -- which are highly likely to cause side effects and can even be deadly -- doctors must rely on symptoms. Many of them don't even do that, but simply make the assumption that our diagnoses automatically equate to low serotonin. (If you read last week's Serotonin Series post, you'll see what that's not always a valid assumption.)
To protect ourselves and make informed treatment decisions, we need to know for ourselves what symptoms are associated with low serotonin. Many of the symptoms listed below can be caused by multiple things, so just one or two isn't conclusive. The more you have, the more likely it is that you have low serotonin.
Physical Symptoms of Low Serotonin
- Fatigue in spite of adequate rest
- Disturbed sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Hot flushes and temperature changes
Psychological Symptoms of Low Serotonin
- Changes in libido
- Mood disturbances
Additional Symptoms of Extremely Low Serotonin
- Muscle cramps
- Bowel & bladder problems
- Rapid, uncontrolled thought processes
- Emotional numbness
- Emotional or behavioral outbursts
- Escape fantasies
- Memory torture (dwelling on or reliving your most traumatic experiences)
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others
Does this sound like you? Have serotonin-targeted treatments eased your symptoms? Have they made you feel worse? Leave your comments below!
See the rest of the Serotonin Series.
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