We often hear talk of a chemical imbalance in the brain to describe numerous disorders. Our body and brain are made up of chemicals such as proteins, amino acids, and neurotransmitters that support regular and irregular functioning.
Most of the time, things work correctly as designed, and life is good. But when a chemical imbalance occurs, problems arise and we become sluggish, out of whack, and sick. Correcting the imbalance can be easy or difficult depending on the duration and type of imbalance.
In the body, when PH levels become too acidic we experience heartburn or indigestion. Many people reach for an antacid to neutralize the symptoms. Ironically, eating a lemon works just as well and it’s a natural form of medication.
But changes in the human body can be more tolerant than a chemical imbalance in the brain, and sometimes easier to diagnose and treat. The brain is a complex system and more difficult to diagnose and treat when chemicals go awry. And when the brain is in disarray, it can cause problems for the entire body.
The major chemicals in the brain that control our moods, emotions and how we feel are called Neurotransmitters and they come in various flavors. Neurotransmitters act as messengers that send signals from one neuron to another by binding to receptors in the brain.
What are some of the main Neurotransmitters in the brain?
- GABA – Gamma Amino Butyric Acid
The infographic below from Health Central outlines the various Neurotransmitters and shows what each is responsible for in the brain. When we speak of a chemically unbalanced brain, we’re referring to Neurotransmitters.
Many factors can contribute to a chemical imbalance in the brain that are out of our control, such as genetics or hormones. Other factors we can control like nutrition, exercise, or using drugs or alcohol. When we’re reckless in these areas, especially for an extended period of time, our Neurotransmitters can become out of balance and problems arise. When that happens, changes in the brain take place that cause depression, anxiety, mental illness or a dependence to the very substances that are causing the problem in the first place.
Lisa Frederiksen, Author of BreakingTheCycles.com, wrote an insightful post entitled, “Why Can’t An Alcoholic Have One Drink” that helps explain the effects of drinking on neurotransmitters and receptors.
In the case of addiction, prolonged use of drugs or alcohol can change the brain so severely that the changes remain forever. The brain then relies on the drugs or alcohol to provide the natural stimulation that neurotransmitters ordinarily would make us feel happy or safe. In essence, the substances hijack the brain. But because the brain is neuroplastic, it is very forgiving and can repair itself if corrected early enough.
To combat the effects of addiction, it’s imperative to balance the chemistry of the brain before or during rehab. The medical treatment of drug addiction using Agonists and Antagonists is one way to help addicts stop using drugs to begin recovery. These attach to receptors in the brain to either simulate or block the effects of addictive drugs to help the brain return to normal.
Once the natural chemical balance returns, Neurotransmitters should work as intended without the use of other drugs or alcohol to feel normal.