Let’s go back to basics to review what happens in the body when neurochemical imbalances occur.
The nervous system is the fundamental control center of the body, like the “computer” of the body. Its center is the brain, which continues with the spinal cord, and then nerves branch off from there to all parts and pieces of the body. The nervous system is where emotions occur as well as all the physical sensations of the body. This is why emotions cause physical changes, known as the “mind-body connection”. For example, stress related headaches, neck and back pain, jaw clenching, irritable bowels, fibromyalgia, etc.
The cells that make up the nervous system are neurons. The system communicates by a neuron passing chemicals to the next neuron. These chemicals pass from cell to cell about one thousand times around the body per second. There are over one hundred billion neurons in a human body, and over one hundred trillion connections between the cells, referred to as synapses. These are mind-blowing (no pun intended) numbers that are difficult to comprehend. A healthy optimally functioning system is when all the chemicals are moving in a forward direction and connecting properly.
Problems arise when certain chemicals move the wrong way or don’t connect properly. The small holes at the end of the neurons are called receptor sites, and each receptor allows only one certain chemical. If there are defects on certain receptor sites of the cell membrane this allows the chemicals to back up and move the wrong direction, hence the term neurochemical imbalances. Another problem is when the chemicals are moving through the system too slowly. The main chemicals they focus on are serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid).
As I have stated in previous blogs, the main reasons these neurochemical imbalances occur are genetic predisposition, hormonal changes and situational stressors. Also, seasonal changes (for example, the “holiday blues”) and environmental factors can play a role. Be sure to reach out to those affected this time of year! I will address each chemical that can be imbalanced and the symptoms associated with each the weeks and months ahead, and how psychotropic medications work in order to fix the problems. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!