Study points to depression as physical illness

08 January 2015

Depression is popularly thought of as some kind of mental and emotional weakness, but recent research points out that it may have more to do with physical illness, The Guardian reported.

In fact, a growing number of scientists are looking at it as such and according to George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, who has spent years studying depression, the condition had as much to do with the body as the mind.

He said he did not even talk about it as a psychiatric condition any more. He added though it did involve psychology, but it also involved equal parts of biology and physical health.

Once this was pointed out, the basis of the new view regarding the condition became all to obvious. Everyone felt miserable when ill and the feeling of tiredness, boredom and reluctance to get off the sofa and get on with life was known among psychologists as sickness behaviour.

It also happened for a good reason, to help avoid doing more damage or spreading an infection any further.

It also looked much like depression and if people with depression showed classic sickness behaviour and sick people felt a lot like people with depression there might be some common cause that accounting for both.

According to Slavich's study, a family of proteins called cytokines set off inflammation in the body, and switched the brain into sickness mode, ANI reported.

Both cytokines and inflammation had been shown to shoot up during depressive episodes and in people with bipolar disease to drop off in periods of remission. Also healthy people could temporarily be put into a depressed, anxious state when given a vaccine that caused a spike in inflammation.

According to Turhan Canli of Stony Brook University in New York infections were the most likely culprit, and depression should be seen as an infectious but not contagious disease.

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