Most of us know that our brains transmit chemical signals to target cells via a junction between two cells, known as a synapse. These signals are carried by neurotransmitters which are endogenous chemicals. It is believed by most neurologists and psychiatrists that an imbalance of these neurotransmitters, generically known as chemical imbalance in the brain, is responsible for most psychiatric disorders like depression and schizophrenia among an entire list of mental disorders and symptoms thereof. The chemicals, main culprits, which get imbalanced, include serotonin, GABA, epinephrine, norepinephrine, etc. Let us take a slightly deeper look at the causes, symptoms and treatment of chemical imbalance in the human brain.
Causes of Disrupted Chemical Balance
Though it is really hard to exactly pinpoint what causes such an imbalance, many neurology experts believe that our thought processes often lead to disturbances and disruptions in neurotransmitter activities. This is one of the most interesting facts about the brain. For instance, a pessimistic personality will tend to always dwell upon the negative, leading to inhibition of endorphins in his body which may lead to disruption of normal neurotransmitter signal pulses. This further results in depressive behavior, creating a vicious cycle thereby.
Chemical Imbalance Symptoms
Symptoms of chemical disturbances in the brain include anxiety, phobias, bipolar depression and ADHD. It is very common to see distorted chemical balance symptoms manifesting as depression and inhibited activity of neurotransmitters has often been held responsible for giving rise to serious neurological conditions such as schizophrenia.
Testing for Chemical Disproportion in the Brain
Once a sudden and drastic change is observed in a patient's behavior and distorted chemical balance is suspected, it is ascertained by conducting a test. Psychiatrists can test for imbalance by evaluating a patient's moods, behavior, perception, speech, thought patterns and other similar psychiatric evaluation methods. Any divergence from the normal pattern indicates an imbalance in the chemistry of the cerebral region and abnormal patterns in neurotransmitter levels and activities which manifest as signs of mental illness. A PET scan or MRI can also reveal such abnormality, although evaluative methods are more common for testing imbalances of cerebral chemistry.
Treatment of Disrupted Cerebral Chemical Balance
Depending upon which of the four chemicals are disrupted, treatment is imparted based upon individual symptoms. For instance, bipolar disorder is usually caused by low GABA levels and Anticonvulsant or Lithium is administered to arrest the symptoms. Similarly, depression accompanied by psychosis occurs due to high dopamine and low serotonin levels which is corrected by administering antipsychotic drugs. Depression as a result of stress is the doing of low serotonin levels which is set right by administering Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). We can see that the medications for adverse mental health may function in more than one ways. While some replicate the effects of neurotransmitters, others prevent surrounding nerves from absorbing neurotransmitters. Yet other medications work by forcing excessive release of neurotransmitters, accentuating their effect while some may completely obstruct neurotransmitters from releasing!
That was a bird's-eye view of cerebral chemical imbalance. Being the complex organ that the brain is, whether such imbalance is triggered by social and environmental conditions or by physiological disturbances is still debated. However, the efficacy of the aforementioned medications for treating mental illnesses has been proved many a time. Hence, whether or not such chemical disturbances are a result of medical conditions, the fact that effective chemical solutions exist for treating these abnormal conditions and re-establishing the normal functions of the brain is confirmed.