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Mental-health issues affect millions of people in the United States and profoundly contribute to the burden of disease in society. The National Alliance of Mental Illness reports that nearly seven percent of American adults live with major depression, and approximately 18 percent live with anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias.

Mood disorders are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for individuals aged 18 to 41. The top-prescribed and top-selling prescription drugs in the U.S. in 2014 included antipsychotics, antidepressants, and attention-deficit-disorder drugs.

Depression, anxiety, post-partum depression, bipolar, OCD, ADD, etc., are conditions that affect your thinking, mood, and your ability to function each day. Read the first couple of paragraphs for a little history on the treatment of mental illness—the treatment for mood disorders have been barbaric throughout history.

Cruel and Unjust Treatment of Mental Illness
Mental-health issues have always existed, and the treatments for those who have had mental-health issues have been brutal, cruel, and unjust.

As early as 2700 BC, when a person was “mentally ill” it was said to be from demonic possession, and the treatment was creating a hole in the head to let the demons out. By 1900 BC mental illness was thought to be caused by a wandering uterus, a.k.a hysteria.

The Egyptians thought mental illness was due to a dislodged uterus that attached to other parts of the body . . . can you imagine?

I’m not sure how this created mental illness, or how a wandering uterus happened, however, it’s where the word hysterical came from.

Then came the witch-hunts at the height of the 13th century, where women with mental illness were accused of being witches and then burned at the stake.

This craziness lasted for some time; witch hunting did not decline until after the 17th and 18th centuries, during which an estimated 100,000 women—presumed witches—were burned alive.

Mental asylums then came on the map; those with mental illness were brought to asylums and abandoned by their families to face a life of inhumane treatments, all for the sake of not burdening ashamed families.

From being shackled to walls in unsanitary conditions, to restraints, electric-shock therapy—which is still done today—and lobotomies (part of the brain was cut out), inhumane treatment of those with mental-health issues continued until roughly the mid-20th century.

Mind meds came into being. As recently as the 1970s, mental illness was viewed as a “chemical imbalance” in the brain; the primary treatment became powerful mood-altering medications (mind meds) prescribed based on nothing more than symptoms.

Sadly, progress in the diagnosis of mental-health issues comes down to a list of agreed-upon symptoms found in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 is the go-to manual for psychiatric diagnosis based on symptoms associated with mood and behaviors.

Basically, the manual does not provide specific causes for mental illness, but rather descriptions of behaviors that then become labeled as syndromes. The DSM-5 does not provide any treatment recommendations based on the diagnosis of any symptom.

Out of curiosity, I dove into the manual to understand more about the members who created the agreed-upon symptoms. I discovered that 70 percent of the members had ties to pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the mind meds, which then are prescribed for behavioral issues. No surprise.

The Functional Medicine Approach to Mood Disorders
While the current paradigm of treating poor brain health is the prescription of mind meds (antipsychotics, antidepressants, attention-deficit-disorder drugs, etc.). The reality is that all of these chronic mental-health issues have multiple causes, including behavioral programming from earlier years, nutrient deficiency, hormone imbalances, and abnormal levels of neurotransmitters.

Despite the lack of medical biomarkers found in blood to assess mood disorders, targeted neurotransmitter testing and hormone profiling can help identify specific physical imbalances that may lead to poor brain health.

Briefly, in the brain, nerve cells (neurons) discharge chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters provide communication within the brain to create senses like smell, touch, hearing, etc., as well as behaviors. Some neurotransmitters have specific functions.

For example, serotonin contributes to a sense of happiness and well-being; dopamine drives the reward and pleasure centers of the brain; GABA calms the brain, while glutamate winds up the brain when we need to be alert.

When neurotransmitters are not balanced, symptoms develop. Here is a partial list of common mood issues associated with neurotransmitter imbalances:

Neurotransmitter Low levels High levels
Dopamine Anorexia, fibromyalgia, sleep disturbances Anxiety, PTSD, Stress
Depression, hot flashes, hunger, low mood, migraines, OCD,
sleep disturbances,
PMS, panic disorders
Anxiety, low libido, irritability,
high blood pressure
GABA Anxiety, panic attacks, sleep difficulties, ADHD, Tourette syndrome Anxiety, foggy thinking, low energy, lethargy
Glutamate Migraine headaches, anxiety, agitation, depression,
chronic fatigue, poor concentration, sleep disturbances
Anxiety, autism,
bipolar disorder, depression,
panic attacks,
sleep issues

The cause of mood disorders is vastly complex, encompassing imbalances of multiple neurotransmitters; nutrient deficiencies, including zinc, selenium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, protein, and hormone imbalances including: low thyroid hormones, high estrogen and low progesterone, high and low cortisol.

Good News—Testing for Mood Disorders is Available
Currently, medical treatment for mood disorders and poor brain health comes down to a trial-and-error drug approach. If one drug doesn’t work, try another; if that drug doesn’t work, try another, or increase the dose and see what happens.

With poor outcomes due to guesswork, there is also a long list of serious and not-so-serious side-effects from these mind meds.

The importance of effective testing and treating mood disorders can’t be overstated.

The good news is, objective testing for neurotransmitters is now available through a simple urine test done in the convenience of your home. Evaluation of neurotransmitter levels through urine provides valuable information about a person’s biochemistry. Neurotransmitter levels provide concrete clues into the causes of poor brain health and mood disorders.

Targeted neurotransmitter testing provides the diagnostic edge over the antiquated inventory of symptoms by identifying specific imbalances. Once these imbalances are identified, a functional approach is taken to create a more balanced state of function and, ultimately, improved brain health.

If you, or someone you know, is dealing with a mood disorder like depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, Bipolar, etc., please call today for more information on neurotransmitter testing. Let me help you, or your friend, rebuild your brain health. 203-655-4494

Dr. Z

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental Illness. Facts and Numbers. 2013.

Cosgrove, Lisa; Drimsky Lisa (March 2012). “A comparison of DSM-iv and DSM-5 panel members’ financial associations with industry: A pernicious problem persists”. PLoS Medicine. 9 (3): 1–5