A friend was kind enough to send me this article, and this one is too strange sounding not to share: According to a new study, depression is “a physical illness caused by a faulty immune system” that can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs.
From an article on the study:
Current treatment is largely centred around restoring mood-boosting chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, but experts now think an overactive immune system triggers inflammation throughout the entire body, sparking feelings of hopelessness, unhappiness and fatigue.
It may be a symptom of the immune system failing to switch off after a trauma or illness, and is a similar to the low mood people often experience when they are fighting a virus, like flu.
“In relation to mood, beyond reasonable doubt, there is a very robust association between inflammation and depressive symptoms. We give people a vaccination and they will become depressed. Vaccine clinics could always predict it, but they could never explain it.
According to the article, more tests will begin next year to see if anti-inflammatory drugs can help alleviate depression.
Obviously, this piqued my curiosity, so I did a little bit more digging. First, this area of study isn’t new – there are studies dating back at least six years that would support the notion that inflammation and depression are linked. From that article:
Previous studies have linked depression with higher level of inflammatory markers compared to people who are not depressed. When people are given proinflammatory cytokines, people experience more symptoms of depression and anxiety. Chronically higher levels of inflammation due to medical illnesses are also associated with higherrates of depression. Even brain imaging of people with depression show that their brain scans have increased neuroinflammation.
The article went on to recommend that everyone take anti-inflammatory steps (which are good for you regardless), including better diet, stress reduction, exercise, mind-body exercises and breathing exercises.
This is new to me, and fascinating. That being said, it makes me nervous. I’ve always operated under the assumption that depression – and mental illness in general – are not caused by – or treatable with – a single bullet. They are a combination of things: Genetics, stress levels, thinking patterns, etc., that make someone mentally ill. As such, the notion that one thing – inflammation – could be the cause of depression – well, it gives me pause.
It would be so, so wonderful to be wrong!
Two points about this research, and understand, please, that they are coming from a layman, not a doctor!:
First, more tests are required, so don’t run out and buy an anti-inflammatory today. More information, specifics and treatment options are still needed. For now, keep going to therapy and taking your medication, darn it!
Second, let’s say, for a moment, that future studies confirm a connection between inflammation and depression. That does not (necessarily) mean that you should stop taking your medication or going to therapy. Remember, all body-mind reactions are a two way street. Yes, your body can affect your mind, of course, but the way you think can affect your body. When you are scared, your heart rate accelerates, your breathing speeds up and you get sweaty. Don’t think that being depressed, having negative emotions or damaging thought processes can’t potentially cause the inflammation that causes depression. I’ve always believed – at least for me – that a combination of medication and therapy are the best way to deal with depression. If you believe that too, don’t think that therapy will no longer be necessary just because you take some pills that can make the swelling go down.
This is fascinating. And potentially hugely promising. I can’t wait to track more information about this, and I really hope that this can provide people with real relief in the future.