Suppose one has a major breakup and goes into depression due to this sudden development in their lives. Does it mean that there is some kind of a chemical imbalance in the brain of that person? Many experts say that chemical imbalance in the brain may be the cause of depression.
Many mental illnesses are thought to be linked to this imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Is there any test that will help determine this abnormality? Before we answer this question, let us understand what is chemical imbalance.
What is chemical imbalance?
The human brain is the most elusive organ of the body. Humans are said to be the ones with a highly developed cerebrum. However, the powers of the brain are still a medical mystery. The capability of the human brain is yet to be tapped into and mankind still awaits the moment that will unleash the powers of the mind.
One such mystery is about the chemical in the brain. There are four main chemicals called neurotransmitters that help in the functioning of the brain. This means that these chemicals send messages within the nerves to react and understand the different thoughts, emotions, and behavior going through one's mind.
These chemicals include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When there is an increase or a decrease of these chemicals from the normal level, it leads to chemical imbalances.
The chemical imbalance in the brain is thought to be caused by disturbances in the neurotransmitter activity. This means that if a person continues to have negative thoughts, his/her body will produce more of endorphins. High levels of endorphins will cause disruptions in the signal pulse of the neurotransmitter.
This leads to depression and the person is caught in a web of more mental health problems. Some of the symptoms that may point towards this abnormality in the brain include the following:
- Anxiety symptoms
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar depression
- Addictions like alcohol or drug addiction, etc.
Test for chemical imbalance
After going through the causes and symptoms of chemical imbalance in the brain, one wonders if this abnormality in the chemical levels is the reason behind the signs of mental illnesses.
It has been found that mental disorders, like schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc., are related to the increase or decrease in the levels of neurotransmitters. So, with the help of a few tests, one can determine if there is some chemical confusion happening within the brain or not.
The most advanced imaging techniques, the PET scan is often used as a test for determining the chemical imbalances. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) helps one understand the changes in certain neurotransmitters. PET scan mostly helps in choosing the line of treatment for the chemical imbalance in the brain rather than diagnosing the problem.
This test is very expensive and available with only a few select research institutes and tertiary care hospitals. Therefore, this test is carried out only in certain exceptional cases.
So, under normal circumstances, doctors tend to analyze the symptoms exhibited to understand the chemical imbalances. Most of the chemical imbalance tests are based on the physical evaluation of the patient. The doctor evaluates the person's behavior, mood, speech, and level of perception to determine the chemical balance.
Most of the chemicals in the brain are dependent on the type of nutrition one consumes. It has been found that about 90% of the chemicals found in the brain are produced in the digestive tract. Thus, what we eat also influences our mental health. To understand the problem better, even a urine test is carried out.
This helps determine the level of some of the important neurotransmitters in the brain. The urine test determines the ratios and concentrations of the chemicals. Sometimes, even the saliva is tested to determine the imbalances.
However, according to many experts, there is no urine or saliva hormone test that helps in diagnosing any kind of mental disease or condition. This test is used to determine if there are any sort of biochemical imbalances in the body or not. Basically, there is no test or measurement that can diagnose or help treat a mental disorder.
But, getting a chemical test done helps in understanding the imbalance and the steps to be taken for correcting this problem. The human brain is still not clearly understood by the best minds in the business.
The brain juices may have some hidden answers within them. It's only a matter of time that one may come up with a test that will help in determining a mental illness with certainty. Till then, we have to continue this trial-and-error method for our search for some real answers.
Disclaimer: This piece is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.