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Mental Illness Linked to Immune System Wellbeing

For too long we’ve assumed that mental illness is merely a symptom of the mind, and unrelated to the condition of the rest of the body.  However, recent research suggests that a depressed immune system can have an effect on mental health and that mental health can also have an effect on immune system health.  For example, take the last time you had a cold and were laid up in bed for several days.  Usually, by the second or third day many people will feel lethargic and unable to accomplish tasks, even if they feel better from their physical ailment (e.g. cold or flu).  You probably felt a lot like someone who suffers from depression, and that’s no coincidence say scientists.

Immune System Inflammation Connected with Mental Illness

The primary mechanism in the immune system that researchers are connecting with mental illness is inflammation.  Research has begun to show that individuals with immune system inflammation are more likely to experience depression, which may explain why 1 in 4 Schizophrenics entering the hospital for mental health treatment simultaneously had a urinary tract infection.  Similarly, research has also shown that:

  • Brain conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease have an effect on mood.
  • Mothers with autoimmune disorders such Lupus are more likely to have children with Autism.

Treating Mental Illness by Targeting the Immune System

With the recent research on mental illness and the wellbeing of the immune system, scientists are beginning to think that targeting the immune system may be the best route to treat some patients’ mental illness.  That isn’t to say that all mental illness are best treated by targeting other areas of the body, but for those patients with mental illness that isn’t treated very well by targeting the brain, it may be an alternative method for doctors to help these “tough cases”.  Overall, what the research shows is that it is important for us to stop thinking of the brain and body as entirely separate entities, as your psychological health has an impact on your physiological health and vice versa.

4 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Paula

    ah I was wondering when big pharma was going to start experimenting on the mentally ill again

  2. Gravatar for anton tarra

    I am sure you are the right way. when i get a cold

    and have to stay in bed, after that comes my depression and anxiety. these are worst if you used antistaminics

  3. Gravatar for Jack Deman

    I would like to know if there is a link with Bipolar and Immune system. One may trigger the other or vise versa. what do you think?

  4. Gravatar for Hannah Mittleman
    Hannah Mittleman

    Hello Jack - below is a link to a beautifully written article on Bipolar Disorder. As a clinical social worker I see many correlations between cognitive well-being and physical health. One of the factors being stress is related to 80% of all illness..

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/the-problem-with-how-we-treat-bipolar-disorder.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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