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Is It Possible To Confirm/measure Chemical Deficiencies Assoicated W Depresion?


seeeker

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I am quite certain I suffer from depression. For twenty years I have dealt with all the symptoms, the lack of achievement, the broken marriage, the isolation, the sadness, the chronic angst. I've tried most of the SSRIs on and off, had all the side-effects. Couple years ago I learned about ADD, and this seemed a more focussed summary of my life, so I've been on Adderal ever since. It's helped, but still there are issues. I wake up defeated and mentally scattered. Lately I've discontnued the Adderall to see if I can regain some new perspective.

Over the years I've learned about the role of seritonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in regulating mood, though I haven't studied it thoroughly.

My diagnoses over the years have been largely anecdotal, based on feelings and experiences I describe. I've been in some therapy on and off, but eventually the cycle ends due to cost or moving or whatever. Therapy began in high school, and since then whenever I start up with a new doctor or prescription, I simply recount the background history and they assume the story, like a snowball. Yadda yadda yadda. But these dian

The Question: So with all the years of primarily experiential symptoms, my question is, is there a way to definitively, medically/scientifically, quantifiably measure one's seritonin or dopamine levels to confirm depression? Similar to a blood test, only measuring your mood regulating compounds?

For example I don't know if perhaps I can climb out of the depression if certain life events would occur to serve as positive reinforcement; or is my personal makeup and cycle of sadness, self-sabotage, and failure always doomed to repeat regardless?

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Hi seeeker ,

As serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are constantly changing in the blood , brain and body in reaction to mood, stress and body activity there has never been any way to test its levels in the blood to date. The only reliable test has been done on the brains of people who have died.

This is an area I have a great deal of interest in myself and like you I have studied it at a practical and professional level. It is because of the nature of production of these neurotransmitters that is is impossible to measure them , the constant fluctuations minute by minute due to a change in mood, thinking, activity, response to stimuli that make it impossible to measure.

I have no doubt that such a test will be made available in time. Most of the diagnosis of Mental Health Issues are based on the factual evidence and psychological testing/assessment by a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

As far as getting better from depression and related conditions it is really a of trial and error with medication until you find an effective one, and then dealing with the root cause of the depression so that you can make lifestyle changes to prevent getting stuck in a vicious cycle.

Best Wishes

Jim Bow

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Hello, just wanted to chime in that I agree with Jim Bow 100%, since there is no way to accurately measure the happy hormones, however, there is the method of trial and error to get these hormones up to proper levels. Yes it involves the use of anti-depressants, and it is a trial by error to get the dosage just right (like goldilocks and the three bears), a person may only need a little help or alot of help, but once you get the medication correct and the dosage correct, you will see things in a far more positive light and things that would normally bother you alot just seem insignificant in the whole scheme of things. They do *not* change your personality, as you will still know there are things that need to be tackled like clothes to wash, car to get cleaned, a job to find, but you will find so much more energy and a positive attitude to accomplish these things.

In essence, an anti-depressant takes bad thoughts and turns them into positive thoughts that this is doable, and you have the energy to do them. Good Luck, and please do talk to a doctor about this. Also a therapist is good also, that way you tackle issues from both sides of the coin so to speak... its what I do to help myself. A good med and a good therapist can take you a long way from depression...

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I'm not a doctor, but as I understand it, there is a serum serotonin test, to determine the level of serotonin in the blood - used to diagnose carcinoid syndrome, a series of tumours which release extra serotonin into the body.

Again as I understand it, this isn't used for testing for depression because it's not serotonin in the blood that's an issue - it's how serotonin is functioning in the brain, and there isn't as far as I know a test for serotonin levels in the extracellular brain fluid.

It's important to keep in mind that it isn't necessarily low production of serotonin that causes depression (if indeed your depression is caused by serotonin questions at all, as opposed to dopamine or norepinephrine or non-chemical causes or....)

Most anti-depressants don't increase production of serotonin - they inhibit the re-absorption of the serotonin which is already present in the extracellular brain fluid. That's where the name SSRI comes from - Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors. So what they're doing is making the serotonin which is there available for brain functioning for a longer period of time.

(This, for instance, may be part of why doing pleasurable activities isn't always pleasurable for depressed people - because it may not be a serotonin production issue, it may be a reception issue.)

I do believe in some level of chemical cause for depression. But it's incredibly complex, not just to figure out exactly what chemicals might be responsible - for people in general and for any given individual specifically - but also to figure out how to "fix" the problem. I take a medication - Lamictal - that helps many people for depression - but nobody fully understands why or how it works!

Edited by americandownunder
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The Question: So with all the years of primarily experiential symptoms, my question is, is there a way to definitively, medically/scientifically, quantifiably measure one's seritonin or dopamine levels to confirm depression? Similar to a blood test, only measuring your mood regulating compounds?

For example I don't know if perhaps I can climb out of the depression if certain life events would occur to serve as positive reinforcement; or is my personal makeup and cycle of sadness, self-sabotage, and failure always doomed to repeat regardless?

Hi Seeker,

You can't test directly for depression, but there are other things you can and should be tested for that can lead to depression. For example, vitamin deficiencies (D and B12), Hormones (testosterone / estrogen), and things such as Lyme disease (though a negative result doesn't neccessarily mean you don't have it).

It's also possible to test the blood for certain genetic defects. My doctor tested me and said I had something like a "heterogeneous MTHFR enzyme defect". In english and to the best of my understanding, this enzyme is part of the process of making serotonin, and if the gene for the enzyme is wrong, you'll have a more difficult time making serotonin. About half the US population has the heterogeneous defect (one bad gene, one good gene).

The way I look at things, positive thinking is only the recipe for happiness. But your body also has to have the proper ingredients in stock, or you won't be able to do much baking. A blood test can give a peek into the level of some of the needed ingredients.

- Slo

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I agree with what others have said.

This is part of the reason depression is a disorder and not a disease. As of yet there are no biological markers for depression. Science is still trying to figure out what exactly it is. The brain is highly connected and wired and everything seems to effect everything. Trying to untangle where and what the problem is can be very hard. That being said research is coming along. Depressives seem to have lower brain activity in the left frontal lobe of the brain. They say that it is an imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemicals) because when we increase or decrease those levels there is an improvement....but not in everyone. They are also finding more information in genetics....but that is complicated has well.

There are medical conditions that cause depression like hypothyroidism and that can be measured by hormone levels.

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