Depression and Serum Serotonin
When someone is depressed, we will do anything to get out of it. It is perhaps the most painful experience known to man. Emotional pain goes to the heart of who we are or what we think we are. A depressed person has no feeling of value, no or little belief in our ability to display ourselves to a level that can make us acceptable or seem capable. The worry about those feelings can deplete first the emotional or conscious strength, and then the physical strength that is driven by the conscious. When we feel good, we are capable of doing, no matter how exhausted we may be physically. When we feel low, we are incapable of doing, no matter how rested we may be.
Depression, therefore, is a weakness of the core, the mental/emotional condition that defines and differentiates the human being. Serotonin was only discovered as a brain hormone in the nineteen seventies. It was discovered by accident when a pharmaceutical company experimenting on rats for a chemical to relieve high blood pressure saw the effect on physical activity and apparent excitement. Serum serotonin is not measured empirically. So it is really not possible to state that a person’s serum serotonin is low. It is just assumed to be low because the physical/emotional strength seems depleted. Of course the administration of an SSRI will perk me up. This is like an athlete who takes steroids, not because he lacks them, but because an extra amount will stimulate the tissues. Similarly, if a person feels lethargic, it is not because we lack adrenaline. But if we are given adrenaline, it will perk us up. Of course, there is a downer. Too much adrenaline can kill. Amphetamine, a synthetic adrenaline-like compound, has loads of side effects. So do steroids. It is the same with SSRIs. SSRIs work, not by raising the serotonin, but by preventing the brain from reabsorbing it. So it allows the serotonin to keep stimulating the neuronal cells. Those cells can then get exhausted causing what is known as a rebound depression that requires a higher dose just to come back to what was normal in the first place.
Let’s face it; the mind is not the body, or any part of it. The mind, the essence, the soul, whatever name we give it, functions above and beyond the limitations of the body. When we feel we are not valuable or worthy, there may be real reasons for that. The intelligent mind is so, not only because we can understand, but also because we can understand that we do not understand. We are the ones who judge ourselves, and sometimes with good reason. You see, we are required to build the power of the mind. When we do not, we can find ourselves seeming foolish. This may be real, or it may be only relative to the situation we are in or the people we are with. When we see that what we are seems insufficient, it is no reason to retreat into self-defeat. Rather, it is an invitation to find out more. That does not mean that we are insufficient but that we are insufficient relative to the situation we are facing. It may not be applicable for the condition at hand, but it prepares us for conditions ahead. You see, life is always changing. It is not just the poorly prepared who falls behind; it is sometimes the well prepared who is in a highly volatile situation. It is okay to feel down. It is not okay to stay there, even when a chemical dampens the feeling that can propel the need to be more.