Depression may not just be a reaction to an inflammatory disease, it may possibly be caused by it.
By Dawn Flemming
There are many common autoimmune inflammatory diseases that seniors suffer from as they grow older. Common ones include irritable bowel diseases and the all-too-famous rheumatoid arthritis.
We also know that living with these difficult diseases can take their toll on our mental health and bring about conditions such as anxiety and depression.
However, more and more studies are showing that anxiety and depression may not just be reactions to these diseases, it may be that autoimmune inflammatory disorders may be causing depression and anxiety by changing the brain’s structure and chemical functions. In other words, it may be that depression is an inflammatory disorder.
A 2019 study by Medical Xpress showed that
that people with inflammatory disorders had a 16% higher risk of depression and anxiety, compared with people without these disorders. The age at which the disorder began influenced the risk. Those diagnosed before the age of 40 showed a 70% higher risk of depression and anxiety, across all inflammatory disorders.
The conclusion relied on medical records that showed that
when a patient consulted a doctor with a particular problem. We do not know how long the patient had experienced the problem, perhaps in a very mild form, before they saw their GP. So when the records show that the patient came to see the doctor about an inflammatory disorder first, it's possible that they were depressed at that point but decided not to report it.
Although the study is not conclusive, it is important to check your mental health if you have an inflammatory disorder, especially if you are a senior because mental health and inflammation can co-exist in a vicious cycle and reinforce each other.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.