The Chemistry of Psychology


Psychology is the study of the human mind and how it functions, particularly in the context of behavior. Psychology is something I have been interested in for several years, and I am planning to major in psychology, in addition to a few other related topics such as sociology, criminology and forensic science, so I can become a criminal profiler and forensic scientist for the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit.

Psychology is involved in every aspect of life. Even the smallest pieces of what you do, even something as simple as smiling at someone in the hallway, is influenced by the chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain.Composition of ...There are over 100 naturally occurring neurotransmitters. Some of the most important would be: Dopamine (C₈H₁₁NO₂), Serotonin (C₁₀H₁₂N₂O), Vasopressin (C₄₆H₆₅N₁₃O₁₂S₂), Oxytocin (C₄₃H₆₆N₁₂O₁₂S₂), Acetylcholine (C₇H₁₆NO₂), Norepinephrine (C₈H₁₁NO₃), Epinephrine (C₉H₁₃NO₃) and Cortisol (C₂₁H₃₀O₅)

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

Oxytocin (C₄₃H₆₆N₁₂O₁₂S₂)

    • Produced in the pituitary gland
    • Associated with love, trust, and attachment

Dopamine (C₈H₁₁NO₂)

    • Produced in the hypothalamus
    • Affects voluntary movement, learning, memory, emotions and responses to environmental factors

Serotonin (C₁₀H₁₂N₂O)

    • Produced in multiple areas of the brain
    • Helps with sleep, appetite, perception, body temperature, pain suppression and mood

Vasopressin ( C₄₆H₆₅N₁₃O₁₂S₂)

    • Produced by the peripheral nervous system
    • Involved in attachment and development, trust and emotions (love)

Acetylcholine (C₇H₁₆NO₂)

    • Produced in the central brain
    • Needed for cognitive functions, muscle movement, memory and emotion

Adrenaline group

    1. Epinephrine (C₉H₁₃NO₃)
    2. Norepinephrine (C₈H₁₁NO₃)
    3. Cortisol (C₂₁H₃₀O₅)
      1. Produced in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland
    4. Influences fight-or-flight, fear and aggression

Chemistry's Role

Too much or too little of any neurotransmitter causes the chemical reactions in the brain to be unbalanced, resulting in various mental conditions such as O.C.D, depression, Alzheimer's and schizophrenia


    • Too much adrenaline causes anxiety, O.C.D, P.T.S.D and other paranoia/fear related disorders, while too much Dopamine can be related to schizophrenia
    • Too little dopamine and oxytocin can also be related to anxiety, as well as depression
    • Those who suffer from Alzheimer's have a lack of acetylcholine
    • Anyone who has trouble with addiction can have any range of chemical imbalances. Things as small as coffee or caffeine change the chemical balance of the brain
    • Chemical overloads can cause seizures or epilepsy

*For more specific examples for each of these neurotransmitters watch the video above*

There is other factors involved in these chemical reactions. As aforementioned above, addiction can greatly affect the chemical balance in the brain. This accounts for addictions as small as caffeine and as large as hallucinogenic and stimulant drugs such as L.S.D (C₂oH₂₅N₃O)

Background Research

Psychology is the study of the human mind and its control of emotions and actions.

There are 7 different perspectives of psychology: Biological, Evolutionary, Learning, Sociocultural (Social), Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic, Cognitive and Humanistic.

Everything psychological can somehow be related to a chemical reaction in the brain.

Some of the most important chemicals are: Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Vasopressin, Acetylcholine, Norepinephrine, Epinephrine and Cortisol.


    • The human brain contains over 100 chemicals that are used to communicate with the body
    • If these are out of balance, it can cause serious psychological disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder
    • The main chemicals that affect behavior and mood are: norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine
    • Everything psychological is biological

    • Medications can also affect the many chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain (positively and negatively)
    • Over 100 neurotransmitters interact within the brain and affect mood, emotion and action

    • Without chemistry, psychologists would be unable to fully understand an individual’s inner behavior
    • Chemistry contributes more to psychology than it does to physics
    • The cause of behaviors and mental disorders are/have been discovered by a process of chemical analysis

    • Medications affect the brain by replacing or adding two chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, that may be low. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common chemical imbalances
    • In addition to adding chemicals, medications are also used to reduce chemicals

(Crash course Psychology: The chemical mind)

    • Neurons have the same makeup as other cells, but they are electrochemical. This means they are able to send messages to one another
    • Low amounts of serotonin = depression
    • Too much dopamine = schizophrenia, O.C.D, impulsive behavior
    • Deterioration of acetylcholine = Alzheimer's
    • The Endocrine system produces hormones or chemical messengers that control the three A’s (attraction, aggression, appetite)

    • Not only do neurotransmitters affect emotions or moods, they affect movement too. Improper amounts of these chemicals can cause illnesses like Parkinson's Disease
    • Chemical dependency is a result of addiction. The brain is now under the impression that is needs the amount of chemicals it received to survive, this is why withdrawals can be fatal
    • Seizures are a result of chemical overload in the brain
    • Norepinephrine and epinephrine control fight-or-flight reactions. People with anxiety over produce these chemicals

All background research was found in: The 2016 edition of the 5 steps to a 5 AP Psychology; found here

Invitation to Psychology fourth edition, written by Carole Wade and Carol Tavris.

Composition resources:


About the Author

Megan Ayers is a Junior at Billings Senior High. Outside of school she dances at Yellowstone Dance Company and Studio as a competition dancer and enjoys spending time with her cat Molly. In the future she hopes to attend The University of Montana, become a member of MENSA like her father and grandfather, and obtain a doctorate degree in forensic science and psychology, with a masters in sociology and criminology, so that she can later become a criminal profiler and forensic scientist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.