Depression could be treated using anti-inflammatory drugs,scientists now believe, after determining that it is a physical illness caused by a faulty immune system.
Around one in 13 people in Britain suffers from anxiety or depression and last year the NHS issued 64.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants, double the amount given out a decade ago.
A raft of recent papers, and unexpected results from clinical trials, have shown that treating inflammation seems to alleviate depression.
When the journalist Bryony Gordon wrote about her struggle with depression she was taken aback by her readers’ reaction. In her memoir Mad Girl she recalls: ‘Of all the subjects I had written about in my career, not one of them had elicited a response like this… I received hundreds and hundreds of messages from people sharing their own stories of mental illness. Strangers sent me cards. Friends I had always seen as upbeat and jolly, who had probably always seen me as upbeat and jolly, pulled me to on
There is growing evidence that inflammation – already known to be a cause of many whole-body diseases – is also involved in diseases of the brain, including psychiatric conditions like depression.Depression is a common and crippling disease affecting over 350m people worldwide. Around 20% of the UK population will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, with symptoms varying from feelings of sadness and hopelessness through to suicidal thoughts. The disease may be a response to bereavement or other life events or emerge without any obvious cause. All too often it persists, sometimes for life.
A group of UK scientists are teaming up with researchers from two pharmaceutical companies to investigate whether mood disorders, such as depression, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, could be treated by targeting the immune system.
Scientists at seven UK universities are to set up a research consortium aimed at exploiting a newly discovered link between immune disorders and mental illness. The connection raises hopes that anti-inflammatory drugs can be adapted to treat patients with depression or senile dementia.