Depression and inflammation
According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability. Unfortunately, 30 to 60 percent of patients are not responsive to available antidepressant treatments.
One traditional hypothesis of depression is idea of deficiency in monoamine neurotransmitters, which leads to low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. But growing evidence supports that some forms of depression may also be linked to ongoing low-grade inflammation in the body.
Previous studies have linked depression with higher level of inflammatory markers compared to people who are not depressed. When people are given proinflammatory cytokines, they experience more symptoms of depression and anxiety. Chronically higher levels of inflammation due to medical illnesses are also associated with higher rates of depression.
Even brain imaging of people with depression show that their brain scans have increased neuroinflammation. The theory that depression may be viewed as a neuroimmunological disorder can also help explain why efforts to reduce chronic inflammation in the body also improves and helps prevent depression.
Negative mood may signal poor health
Negative mood such as sadness and anger is associated with higher levels of inflammation and may be a signal of poor health. The researchers discovered that negative mood measured multiple times a day over time is associated with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers. This extends prior research showing that clinical depression and hostility are associated with higher inflammation.
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response to such things as infections, wounds, and damage to tissues. Chronic inflammation can contribute to numerous diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Brain inflammation in people with OCD and depression
A new brain imaging study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health shows that brain inflammation is significantly elevated – more than 30 per cent higher – in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition.
Inflammation or swelling is the body’s response to infection or injury, and helps the body to heal. But, in some cases, this immune-system response can also be harmful. Dampening the harmful effects of inflammation and promoting its curative effects, through new medications or other innovative approaches, could prove to be a new way to treat OCD.
In an earlier study, it was discovered that brain inflammation is elevated in people with depression, an illness that can go hand in hand with OCD in some people.
The research showed that people with longer periods of untreated depression, lasting more than a decade, had significantly more brain inflammation compared to those who had less than 10 years of untreated depression. Greater inflammation in the brain is a common response with degenerative brain diseases such as with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson´s disease. While depression is not considered a degenerative brain disease, the change in inflammation shows that, for those in whom depression persists, it may be progressive condition.
Depression damages your brain
One very common symptom of depression is ‘rumination’-a tendency to spend a lot of time thinking about certain negative aspects of experience – repetitively thinking about the causes, consequences, and symptoms of one’s negative affect or circumstances related to one’s sadness.
People who are depressed have a tendency to spend hours ruminating, and may justify the time spent ruminating as “trying to sort things out,” or to solve their problems. Yet research shows that rumination actually interferes with problem-solving, and makes one’s mood worse rather than better. Most likely time spent ruminating increases activity of the brain’s fear system, the amygdala, and increases avoidant behavior, making it less likely that a person will have a chance to emerge from depression.
It is even possible that depression might now be treated as a degenerative disease, as it affects the brain progressively over time