What is serotonin, what does it do, what are the symptoms of deficiency?

Serotonin, often called the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, plays a crucial role in regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. It’s linked to feelings of well-being and happiness. Imbalances in serotonin levels are associated with various mental health conditions, making it a target for medications like SSRIs. Understanding serotonin’s intricate role in brain chemistry is vital for mental health research and treatment.

APA 7: ChatGPT. (2023, September 6). What is serotonin, what does it do, what are the symptoms of deficiency? PerEXP Teamworks. [Article Link]

What is serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger in the brain and central nervous system, with a profound impact on various aspects of our well-being. It is derived from the amino acid tryptophan and is often referred to as the “Feel-good” neurotransmitter due to its role in regulating mood, emotions, and behavior.

Skeletal formula of serotonin

What does serotonin do?

Serotonin plays a pivotal role in regulating a wide range of physiological and psychological functions. Its primary functions include:

  • Mood regulation: Serotonin is closely associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. It helps stabilize mood, contributing to a sense of emotional balance and resilience against stress and anxiety.
  • Sleep: Serotonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. It is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that controls sleep patterns. Adequate serotonin levels are essential for healthy sleep.
  • Appetite and digestion: Serotonin influences appetite, particularly in terms of controlling food intake. It also aids in gastrointestinal functions, promoting regular bowel movements.
  • Cognition: While its role in memory and cognitive processes is complex, serotonin is thought to contribute to cognitive functioning, learning, and memory consolidation.

Symptoms of serotonin deficiency?

Low serotonin levels can lead to a condition known as serotonin deficiency or serotonin insufficiency. Common symptoms may include:

  1. Mood disorders: Serotonin deficiency is often associated with mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Individuals may experience persistent sadness, irritability, or heightened stress.
  2. Sleep disturbances: Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns can result from inadequate serotonin levels, leading to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
  3. Appetite changes: Reduced serotonin can affect appetite regulation, potentially leading to increased cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods and weight fluctuations.
  4. Digestive issues: Gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be aggravated by low serotonin levels, leading to digestive discomfort.
  5. Low energy: Fatigue, low energy levels, and a lack of motivation are common symptoms of serotonin deficiency.
  6. Cognitive impairments: Some individuals may experience difficulties with concentration and memory when serotonin levels are insufficient.

It’s important to note that serotonin deficiency is a complex issue influenced by various factors, including genetics and lifestyle. Individuals experiencing persistent symptoms should seek medical evaluation and guidance to determine the underlying causes and appropriate treatment options, which may include psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, or medication.


  1. WEBSITE Mayo Clinic. (2022, January 22). Serotonin syndrome – Symptoms & causes. Mayo Clinic. [Mayo Clinic]
  2. WEBSITE Marano, H. E. (2023, August 22). Serotonin: Still a Prominent Player in the Depression Puzzle. Psychology Today. [Psychology Today]
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