How can lack of Serotonin have anything to do with OCD?

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I get it it’s the good mood hormone and you can feel down when you are low on it. Makes sense how it could be the cause of depression.

But how it can be related to brain making stressful thoughts? And forcing one to do compulsions for relief?

And why when you take SSRIs and your Serotonins reach a normal level, a significant reduction of symptoms occurs? I don’t get it.

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10 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Normally when you are feeling good you aren’t stressed. So a lack of serotonin may not necessarily be the main cause but it sure would be a contributing factor

Anonymous 0 Comments

OCD is a malfunction of the brain’s ability to get closure. Healthy activity is you wonder if you left the stove on, check it, and feel comforted. Your brain “cleans up” the thought and moves on; it uses serotonin to do this.

If you don’t have enough serotonin, the thought doesn’t get resolved. So you check the stove, but you don’t feel like you checked it, even though you know you did.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Neurotransmitters like Serotonin don’t have a 1-to-1 function; the body uses neurotransmitters for all sorts of things. 

From the first paragraph of Wikipedia: 

> Its biological function is complex, touching on diverse functions including mood, cognition, reward, learning, memory, and numerous physiological processes such as vomiting and vasoconstriction.

Disregulation of any neurotransmitter will have complex, cascading impacts across multiple systems, not just cognition. 

Anonymous 0 Comments

1. Serotonin (along with the other neurotransmitters) have many functions.

2. It’s not clear exactly why SSRIs have the effect they do on OCD.  The reality is there are many drugs where we don’t know exactly WHY they work  

Anonymous 0 Comments

one class of ocd medicines is a very low dose anti depressant and the logic goes as follows

when you give into a compulsive action, your brain squirts a little neurotransmitter to reward you.
the low dose antidepressant block this reward mechanism which stops reinforcing the compulsive behavior.

the dosage here is very important, low. just enough to stop the compulsive actions; not meant to affect things in the sqme way you would want for a chronic depression which is more about restoring balance to those same neurotransmitters

Anonymous 0 Comments

Okay, so you know how when you mix paints you end up with different colours? Well brain chemicals are kindof like that. You need to mix just the right colours in just the right amounts to get the final colour that you want. If you mix a little bit too much of one colour then you get a something that’s kindof like the colour you want, but a little too dark or a little too light.

Now imagine a paintbox with over 100 different colours, and you’re trying to mix **exactly** the right colour. Your brain’s chemical system is like that. There are over 100 brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that can change how your brain functions. And they have to be mixed just right or your brain doesn’t work the way other people’s brains do.

Got that?

But also think about the type of paper you’re painting on. If you’re painting on brown paper your paints will make a different colour than if you’re painting on white paper, and your picture might not look the way you want it to look. Well everyone’s brain is a bit different, like painting on different coloured paper. The mixture of paints that might make a nice colour on brown paper won’t make a nice colour on white paper.

It isn’t just about one paint in your paintbox, it’s all about how you mix them (the chemical balance), and the paper you’re drawing on (structural differences in the brain).

There’s more here, such as the brain’s electrical system, but that’s enough for now, okay?

Anonymous 0 Comments

As already mentioned elsewhere, serotonin is multi-functional. While it might be associated with one major pathway or effect that it can have, almost no signaling molecule in the body is used the same way in every cell type or location, and very often they are involved in many different processes, even if the strength of their role will vary. Some even have opposing effects depending on the cell type.

Biology is complicated, and both the *brain* and theme of *signaling pathways* are one of the more complicated areas of biology out there.

Anonymous 0 Comments

OP, any answer here that isn’t “we don’t really know” is just (informed/educated) speculation. The fact is, we don’t really know why SSRIs work for depression, anxiety, OCD, or others, or why some SSRIs seem better for some things than other things and work for some people better than others. The science isn’t settled and it’s still very much an active area of research. There really isn’t an ELI5 answer other than “there’s a lot we don’t know about the brain because it’s ridiculously complicated.”

Anonymous 0 Comments

If you’re only thinking of it the way you described “forcing one to do compulsions for relief”, it would make sense though.

I don’t think you can find an easy answer, besides avoiding disaster makes me feel safe.

A lot of us has severe trauma. I know checking if my door is locked 20 times a day makes me more comfortable.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Serotonin and your other neurotransmitters can be thought of like muscles – your body uses them to do many different things. If the muscle is in your arm, then it moves your arm. But, if it’s in your leg, it moves your leg. The neurons using serotonin are what determines what happens in each case. 

Using dopamine as an example: a lot of people think of dopamine as the “happy chemical”, and yes, the neurons that tell your brain “we like that, do more of that” do use dopamine to talk to each other. But other neurons use dopamine for other stuff too. Over in a different part of your brain, a group of neurons that help you move also use dopamine to talk to each other, which is why Parkinson’s drugs up the amount of dopamine in your brain.

So, we know that neurotransmitters are tools your cells use to talk to each other, but don’t tell us what’s being talked about. And we know that giving people with OCD drugs that up serotonin helps them because we can see them getting better after we give them some. The rest is still an area of active study! 🙂  There are some good ideas out there, but the question “how can upping serotonin remove obsessive thoughts and compulsions” isn’t fully settled! Some people think an area called the CBGTC loop is the reason why because it seems to affect mental control (breaks in ADHD, OCD, and Tourettes) and movement (breaks in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s).

As to why symptoms go away when serotonin levels change – when you don’t have enough serotonin in one part of your brain, all the parts that talk to the broken part get confused. They’re not broken, but they get bad information, so they do weird stuff. Like taking away a muscle in your arm – the whole movement of your arm goes wonky. It might still do most things an arm does – reach for things, control the fingers on your hand (those muscles are in your forearm!) – but maybe it does those in a weird way. When serotonin levels are corrected, all the weirdness goes away and the system works together again.