Please read the link above and then commentary below:
I really enjoy articles like this because they strongly challenge the way we think about and practice mental health care. Psychiatry has been a discipline practicing in a silo and the connection between the body and mind has been thought of as being independent of one another by many medical professionals. Science is catching up and the duality of mind and body (as well as spirit) is quickly collapsing which will (hopefully) lead to major shifts in the way mental illness is conceptualized and treated. It is actually surprising that the idea of mind and body being separate has persisted this long as we have known that physical activity such as cardiovascular exercise or mind/body practices like yoga and tai chi exhibit benefit on psychological wellbeing (and also modulates immune function). Certainly I don’t find it coincidental that epidemics of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are occurring at the same time as epidemics of depression, anxiety, and addictive disorders.
The elephant in the room that is not really discussed in the article is why the immune system is functioning aberrantly. It is exciting to think of all the new drug targets that can be rationalized from scientific exploration of the relationship between the immune system and the mind. Certainly this topic deserves further research. However, to think of improper immune function as the etiological root of depression seems somewhat shortsighted. For example, there are many environmental factors that influence immune function such as chronic stress, social isolation, and diet. All of these to some extent have been associated with depression. Therefore, I think we need to probe deeper into lifestyle interventions at the individual level and cultural shifts at the population level that are likely to impact both aberrant immune signaling and psychological health. It is these types of changes that I believe to have the most potential for major impact on disorders such as depression.
Posted by Benjamin Malcolm, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Administration, WesternU College of Pharmacy