September 03, 2006
Depression Increases Stress Inflammation Response

Sustained inflammation response contributes the development of a variety of diseases. The bodies of depressed people respond to stresses with a larger inflammation response than non-depressed people experience.

ATLANTA--Individuals with major depression have an exaggerated inflammatory response to psychological stress compared to those who do not suffer from depression, according to a study by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine. Because an overactive inflammatory response may contribute to a number of medical disorders as well as to depression, the findings suggest that increased inflammatory responses to stress in depressed patients may be a link between depression and other diseases, including heart disease, as well as contributing to depression itself.

Results of the study, led by Andrew Miller, MD, and Christine Heim, PhD, of Emory's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, are published in the Sept. 1 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"Several examples of increased resting inflammation in depressed patients already exist in the literature, but this is the first time anyone has shown evidence to suggest that the inflammatory response to stress may be greater in depressed people," says Dr. Miller.

The study included 28 medically healthy male participants, half of whom were diagnosed with major depression and half of whom were not depressed. The participants were exposed to two moderately stressful situations during a 20-minute time period. Blood was collected every 15 minutes starting immediately before and then up to an hour and a half after the test to check for key indicators of inflammation. The researchers measured levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine (a regulatory protein secreted by the immune system) called interleukin-6, and the activity of a pro-inflammatory signaling molecule in white blood cells called nuclear factor-kB.

While at rest (before the stress challenge), the depressed patients had increased inflammation relative to the control group. Both the depressed and the healthy groups showed an inflammatory response to the stress challenge, but people who were currently depressed exhibited the greatest increases of interleukin-6 and nuclear factor-kB.

Inflammation damages the body and basically accelerates aging.

"While inflammation is essential for us to fight bacterial and viral infections, too much inflammation can cause harm," says Dr. Miller. "There's always some collateral damage when the immune system gets fired up, and we now believe that too much inflammation, either at rest or during stress, may predispose people to become depressed or stay depressed." In addition, medical research over the last decade has shown that runaway inflammation may play a role in a number of disorders, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, all of which have been associated with depression.

If you are depressed and can not find an effective drug to treat your condition then consider diet and exercise as methods to decrease inflammation. Eat some fish for omega 3 fatty acids for starters. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits too.

If you are not depressed but know depressed people treat them kindly. They can not handle stress as well as you can.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 September 03 09:38 PM  Brain Disorders

PacRim Jim said at September 4, 2006 12:37 AM:

Aspirin, too.

Phil said at September 4, 2006 2:54 AM:

Stress causes depression; depression causes stress.

This looks like a nasty little positive feedback loop to me.

rsilvetz said at September 4, 2006 10:13 AM:

And if you are a good friend and you can relieve them of a stressor -- do so. You may very well make the difference between long-term health and long-term disease if they are on the tipping point of some chronic disease attractor.

Brett Bellmore said at September 4, 2006 6:00 PM:

I wonder if this has anything to do with why SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine) is both an effective anti-depressant, AND an effective anti-inflammatory, at the same time?

rsilvetz said at September 5, 2006 3:44 PM:

The anti-inflammatory component, just guessing, probably has to do with SAMe enhancing the glutathione cycle. Glutathione being a wonderful ROS sink...

Rob-ot said at September 8, 2006 10:38 AM:

Maybe this is a dead thread, but would anti-inflammatories have an anti-depressive effect? Inflammation makes you feel bad.

Randall Parker said at September 8, 2006 7:40 PM:


Yes, I would expect anti-inflammatories to provide mental benefits.

One could try a number of other anti-inflammatory strategies though: exercise, omega 3 fatty acids, and various foods which have high levels of antioxidants in them.

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