Depression: Just Take Advil and Aleve?
Did you know that depression could be linked to inflammation?
To combat the flu or other medical illnesses, like diabetes, asthma, cancer, or heart disease, the immune system has an inflammatory response. Inflammation welcomes the release of cytokines, which are anti- and pro-inflammatory agents that can trigger inflammation and reduce inflammation. Inflammation occures when you have a headache or when you smash your finger with a hammer. The swelling that occures when you hit your finger with a hammer is a result of inflammation. But did you know that inflammation is also linked with depression?
Psychological research has found a correlation between some patients diagnosed with depression and their inflammation levels, where research subjects with clinical depression had higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine and low levels of anti-inflammatory cytokine - In other words, their bodies were in a state of inflammation.
Like The Common Cold: Depression Has Stages!
When someone catches a cold, the person will go through many phases of inflammation. The symptoms may be mild in the beginning, like a runny nose or scratchy throat. Next, some people have a fever, ranging from low-grade to high. After a few days, a person’s symptoms may be even worse—coughing, sneezing, or wheezing. As the virus runs its course, the symptoms will improve, and eventually, the cold is gone. Depression also goes through phases: First, one may begin to feel a little "down" or "low energy", and next they will feel these symptoms even more intensely - If it's bad enough, some people need to go to the hospital for treatment. Eventually, the symptoms subside and an individual returns to feeling increasingly normal, healthy, and energized. These patterns are similar, so inflammation may indeed be at play.
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The body will respond through inflammation when tissue damage occures - Remember the analogy about hitting your finger with a hammer? The redness and swelling is inflammation, right? The tissues of the brain are no different; if they suffer from a trauma, infection, or chemical abnormality caused by an intense emotional event, inflammation can cause the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This response may alter cause an "inflammation" of mood - Increased anger, anxiety, and feelings of emotional pain. If the cause of the emotional inflammation is more serious, people can suffer from a major episode of depression, especially if the emotional inflammation is left untreated.
Surprisingly, elevated pro-inflammatory chemicals in other parts of the body (other than the brain) could also lead to depression. In a study conducted by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), researchers found that rats with higher levels of interleukin-6 (a pro-inflammatory chemical) exhibited depressive symptoms. And these chemicals were found in the peripheral immune system (like the spleen or lymph nodes). What is the importance of these findings? Well, it tells us that peripheral immune issues, inflammation outside the central nervous system, may indicate susceptibility to depression. Medical health professionals may find that treating inflammation in the body (rather than the brain) may address clinical depression.
The Heart Muscle
A Loyola University Medical Center psychiatrist is already using this science to treat cardiovascular disease and depression. Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, calls the new subspecialty “Psychocardiology”, and its immergence has huge implications for the treatment of depression as linked to other illnesses of the body. His research has found that the same chemical in the ACNP study, interleukin-6, is elevated in people with cardiovascular disease.
Heart, Inflammation, and Depression Facts:
Advil & Aleve for Depression?
Anti-inflammatory medication like Advil and Aleve, has already shown promise in treating the symptoms of depression. Combining non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil and Aleve with traditional antidepressant SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) has resulted in a “statistically significant decrease in depressive symptoms”, compared to taking SSRI's alone.
These new findings bring mental health professionals closer to understanding better the causes and treatments for depression. Most importantly, it brings us one step closer to realizing that depression and other mental-health issues are similar to other diseases of the body.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. (2013, December 12). Immune cells outside brain may regulate vulnerability to depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 9, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12
Davis, A., Gilhooley, M., & Aqius, M. (2010, November 22). Result Filters. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21057403
Greenblatt, J. (2011, November 23). The Brain on Fire: Inflammation and Depression. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201111/the-brain-fire-inflammation-and-depression
Loyola University Health System. (2013, February 19). New evidence for link between depression and heart disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 9, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219121604.htm
Nauert, R. (2012, September 4). Anti-Inflammatory Med May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/09/04/anti-inflammatory-med-may-ease-hard-to-treat-depression/44094.html
University of Adelaide. (2014, August 4). Phases of clinical depression could affect treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 9, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140804103033.htm
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