Should Depression Be Treated as an Infectious Disease?

Cort

Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
Fascinating article on NPR on Infection and Depression
Some highlights from it:

Symptoms Of Mental And Physical Illness Can Overlap

Late last year, Turhan Canli, an associate professor of psychology and radiology at Stony Brook University, published a paper in the journal Biology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders asserting that depression should be thought of as an infectious disease. "Depressed patients act physically sick," says Canli. "They're tired, they lose their appetite, they don't want to get out of bed." He notes that while Western medicine practitioners tend to focus on the psychological symptoms of depression, in many non-Western cultures, patients who would qualify for a depression diagnosis report primarily physical symptoms, in part because of the stigmatization of mental illness.
I reported on this little tidbit earlier in a blog

A Danish study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2013 looked at the medical records of over 3 million people and found that any history of hospitalization for infection was associated with a 62 percent increased risk of later developing a mood disorder, including depression and bipolar disorder.
Then there's this. I would bet dollars to donuts that something like this is going on in ME/CFS and fibromyalgia in some people...

Dr. Roger McIntyre, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, tells Shots that he believes an upset in the "immune-inflammatory system" is at the core of mental illness and that psychiatric disorders might be an unfortunate cost of our powerful immune defenses. "Throughout evolution our enemy up until vaccines and antibiotics were developed was infection," he says. "Our immune system evolved to fight infections so we could survive and pass our genes to the next generation. However, our immune-inflammatory system doesn't distinguish between what's provoking it."

McIntyre explains how stressors of any kind — physical or sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, grief — can activate our immune alarms. "For reasons other than fighting infection, our immune-inflammatory response can stay activated for weeks, months or years and result in collateral damage," he says.
At the end of the article the consensus seems to be with some people, yes, infection/inflammation is causing their depression...
 

ScottTriGuy

Active Member
Makes total sense for some depressions: infection -> inflammation -> depression.

I thought the recent discovery that prozac was anti-viral in the brain was further confirmation.
 

Cort

Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
Makes total sense for some depressions: infection -> inflammation -> depression.

I thought the recent discovery that prozac was anti-viral in the brain was further confirmation.
Prozac is antiviral in the brain - amazing..
 
I have had depression and anxiety issues since my early twenties, and was put on Zoloft around the age of 30. That really seemed to control things. But since I got "sick" in 2010, both my depression and anxiety have become completely out of control! I am on extremely high doses of several antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds now, and am still fighting terrible symptoms. Before and since I got sick I have had some pretty major events to go through, I'll admit, but the symptoms never let up. I've tried probably every med out there with no relief. I can now look back and see how things really changed after getting sick. I never heard about the possibility of this maybe being tied to infection. It's a great thought! I hope someone someday can figure this one out, too.
 

Dee VanDine

Member
I have had depression and anxiety issues since my early twenties, and was put on Zoloft around the age of 30. That really seemed to control things. But since I got "sick" in 2010, both my depression and anxiety have become completely out of control! I am on extremely high doses of several antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds now, and am still fighting terrible symptoms. Before and since I got sick I have had some pretty major events to go through, I'll admit, but the symptoms never let up. I've tried probably every med out there with no relief. I can now look back and see how things really changed after getting sick. I never heard about the possibility of this maybe being tied to infection. It's a great thought! I hope someone someday can figure this one out, too.
hi hurricane texas! i'm from austin. nice to meet you! your story sounds familiar. i first became "sick" with CFS/ME/FM when i was about 30 years old. but, when i was a kid, i lived on antibiotics from frequent tonsil infections. don't know why they didn't take my tonsils out, but i'd get an infection about 5 or 6 times a year. then, in my 20s, it was sinus infections. i flew for my corporate job and every time i got home, i'd get a sinus infection and antibiotics. at one point, i was on antibiotics for 6 months, straight. so, i've always figured that they were related. no physician of mine has ever bat an eye at that info, though. whatever, eh? oh, yes, and the depression. so, i'm very familiar with your high doses of multi antidepressants, that somehow never seem to work for long, if at all. it is interesting to look back, after 25 years on this CFS/ME/FM road. and, it's interesting to hear other people's stories. hang in there.
 

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