The processing of serotonin in the body has been linked to either positive or negative outcomes, depending on the circumstances. While serotonin can have several health benefits, there are also some downsides that can be concerning–so let’s take a look at three instances where serotonin can produce unwanted results.

1. The Dark Side of Serotonin

Serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ and mainstay of anti-depressants, can sometimes take a dark turn. While serotonin boosts mood and have positive mental health effects, there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind.

Serotonin’s dark side manifests in the following ways:

  • Elevated feelings of anger and aggression: particularly in cases with extreme serotonin imbalances, an individual may become overwhelmed with a sense of aggressive distress.
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks: too much serotonin can cause surges of emotional distress, leading to harsh anxiety and potentially panic attacks.
  • Isolation and Withdrawal: sometimes individuals suffering from an excess of serotonin may feel overwhelmed in social situations, leading to isolation and withdrawal from society.

Around 10-15% of individuals who take serotonin-boosting antidepressants have reported experiencing these or similar adverse effects. For those living with serotonin imbalance, finding the right combination of medication and therapy is key.

2. The Negative Effects of Too Much Serotonin

Excess serotonin can have a wide range of adverse effects. Firstly, too much of the neurotransmitter can lead to physical side effects such as:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

Elevated serotonin levels may also cause a range of mental health issues; most commonly, SSRI-induced serotonin toxicity. This condition can lead to an extreme surge of energy, agitation, confusion, and even delirium. Conversely, too much serotonin in the brain may also result in a decreased libido and feelings of depression.

3. How Serotonin Can be Hazardous to Your Health

When it comes to mental health, balancing serotonin levels can be a difficult task. An excessive amount of serotonin can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health, leading to a variety of complications. Here are some of the major hazards associated with high serotonin levels:

  • Seizures: High levels of serotonin in the brain can trigger seizures, which can range from mild convulsions to violent muscle contractions.
  • Mania: Abnormally elevated serotonin levels can manifest as mania, which is a severe condition characterized by extreme feelings of euphoria.
  • Headaches: In some people, high serotonin can cause headaches, usually on one side of the head.

It’s important to note that serotonin toxicity can be caused by taking too much of certain medications as well. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, for example, are often prescribed for depression but can be dangerously overprescribed, leading to a host of health issues. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your medication’s potential side effects and consider alternative treatments.

4. The Unpleasant Surprises of Serotonin Overload

Serotonin overload affects people in unexpected and unpleasant ways. It can be difficult to pinpoint in the beginning because its symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Here are four of the most common, unanticipated repercussions of too much serotonin.

  • Sudden Discomfort & Pain. A surge of serotonin can cause an immediate, stinging pain in your head or body, which will culminate in a long and uncomfortable headache. This is especially true if you have been feeling sleepy or depressed prior to the overload.
  • Trouble with Concentration. You might have a hard time focusing and thinking clearly with an excess of serotonin in your system. It can also lead to an increase of anxiety and worry, thus causing difficulty in problem-solving.
  • Mood Swings. This is one of the most surprise effects of serotonin overload. As funny as it sounds, too much serotonin can cause emotional instability. In some cases, it can cause even deeper and more disruptive moods, like depression or mania.
  • Feelings of Loneliness & Isolation. This could be a result of the mood swings and difficulty in concentrating. With your moods balancing and flipping, it can be hard to remain social and connected with others, leading to feelings of detachment and disconnectedness.

The effects of serotonin overload don’t discriminate when it comes to age or health. Everyone is susceptible to its frightening consequences. Therefore, it is important to monitor your feelings and levels of stress with care in order to prevent an overload of serotonin.

We’ve looked at three not-so-positive aspects of serotonin, like how it’s associated with multiple disorders, how it may cause stress if it’s imbalanced, and how it’s affected by outdoor nighttime lighting. Although the outlook on serotonin may seem a bit bleak, research on this complex chemical is still in its early stages. With continued education and advances in technology, we can better understand the role that serotonin plays in both our health and the environment.

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