For nearly 40 years, there hasn’t been a major advancement in the treatments for depression. Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were once hailed as wonder drugs, but have since been found to be an ineffective treatment for a substantial number of people suffering from depression. In addition to a number of negative side-effects, these drugs are also known to be notoriously difficult to kick once the prescription is no longer recommended.
Revolutionary Theory Could Change Depression Treatments Forever
A psychiatrist at Cambridge University is claiming there is a new way to avoid these types of depression treatments. Professor Edward Bullmore suggest that depression is not a mental, but a physical illness caused by inflammation in the brain. Inflammation occurs when the immune system’s messenger molecules tell the white blood cells to attack an infection or other ailment. It is the body’s first line of defense. However, this immune response can damage healthy cells as well. The proposed link between this physical harm and depression opens up a whole new possibility of treatment options, if proven true and viable by testing and research.
In his book The Inflamed Mind, Professor Bullmore asserts that inflammation is linked with depression. The new theory is that if you treat inflammation, you can alleviate the symptoms of depression.
Putting the Theory Into Action
Decades of drug treatment efforts have largely been reduced to SSRI drugs that raise the brain’s chemical serotonin levels. These levels have been associated with positive feelings. People have been operating under the belief that depressed individuals don’t have enough serotonin, but if the inflammation theory holds up, SSRIs might end up being combined with anti-inflammatory drugs to treat depression. Diet changes and electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve have also been known to effectively treat inflammation.
There have been hints for some time that inflammation might be associated with depression. For example, vaccinations are intended to cause an immune response, which why people tend to say they feel tired an unmotivated after being vaccinated.
A consultation with a woman who had severe arthritis is what lead Professor Bullmore to start pondering the link between inflammation and depression. Instead of just writing a prescription for an anti-inflammatories, Bullmore asked more about her symptoms. Her responses were all the classic signs of depression, such as limiting her ability to complete expected work duties. When untreated, depression can be so debilitating, people are unable to work and need long term disability benefits.
However, it is difficult to prove causation is nothing more than correlation. Bullmore’s research shows that not only does illness and infection cause inflammation, but obesity can as well. Smoking and not exercising can cause inflammation to increase, too. Would this hint that obesity and smoking are direct causes of depression?
The link between inflammation and depression seems to be plausible and might have a great impact on improving medical treatments. More importantly, this new theory raises important questions regarding the division between patients with physical disorders and those with mental illnesses. As Bullmore says, “we need to move on from seeing depression as all in the mind or all in the brain, to a response of the whole human self to the challenges of survival in a hostile world.”
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