Mental Illness: Connection to Immune System Well-Being

An immune system that is depressed can have an effect on mental health and mental health can have an effect on the immune system.  An example to illustrate this is when you get sick with a cold. Usually people lay in bed for a couple of days while they try to get better. Usually by the second or third day, you may feel better symptom-wise, but you might still feel lethargic and unable to do tasks. This scenario reflects a person that suffers depression.

Virus in blood - Scanning Electron Microscopy stylised

Immune system Inflammation Correlates with Mental Illness

The primary mechanism in the immune system that researchers link to mental illness is inflammation. According to research, individuals with immune system inflammation are more than likely to be depressed. This may explain why 1 in 4 schizophrenics admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment have a urinary tract infection.  Other research has shown the following:

  • Brain conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease have an effect on mood.
  • Mothers with autoimmune disorders such as lupus are more likely to have autistic children.

Treating Mental Illness by Focusing on Immune System

Based upon all the research findings, scientists are beginning to realize that focusing on the immune system may be the best way to treat mental illness. This does not necessarily mean that all mental illness should be treated by focusing on other area of the body, but may serve as an alternative for “tough cases,” that primarily focus on targeting only the brain. Thus, the findings demonstrate how we should not treat the brain and body as separate entities because your psychological health can have an impact on physiological health.


Valley Occupational Medical Center



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