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What Is the Connection between Depression and the Immune System?

By Brandon May
Updated May 17, 2024
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Studies have shown a link between chronic depression and the immune system, suggesting that immune system function can decrease when faced with stress and sadness. Depressed individuals seem to produce inflammatory responses in the body, which can decrease healthy metabolic processes and immune system function. The disorder, categorized by the symptoms of sadness and fatigue, has been shown to increase susceptibility to preventable illnesses like a cold or the flu. It is known that the immune system is affected in a large portion of the depressed population, promoting many health experts to advise patients to seek natural stress-reduction techniques to help alleviate depressive symptoms, which in turn may help strengthen immune function.

Research has indicated that individuals suffering from a moderate to severe case of depression tend to react negatively to an invading virus or bacteria entering the body. It is known that those who suffer from depression release inflammatory responses and hormones, like cortisol or adrenaline, which can decrease healthy immune function. In these studies on depression and the immune system, individuals who were depressed were more likely to develop an illness such as the cold or flu compared to people who were categorized as generally happy. More and more researchers agree that depression not only affects the mind and emotions, but has a deteriorating effect on the health of the body.

Depression and the immune system have been studied intensely when dealing with patients who have immune-related diseases, like cancer. It has been shown that individuals who suffer from depression due to a disease diagnosis can unknowingly weaken their immune system. This may slow the overall curing of the disease, as depression, anxiety and stress have all been shown to release hormones that depress the immune system. Many treatment facilities dealing with diseases associated with the immune system often suggest using therapy to help alleviate depressive symptoms.

Health experts specializing in depression and the immune system suggest that those who suffer from depression seek natural outlets of expression to help alleviate depression. These outlets usually include some type of talk therapy, which can be very helpful in reducing stress and depression in some people. By alleviating depression and depressive symptoms, most health specialists agree this can improve immune function and prevent an individual from being more susceptible to viruses or illnesses. For severe cases of depression and anxiety, most doctors recommend an antidepressant to relieve excessive and somewhat dangerous thoughts and emotions associated with the disorder.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Jan 31, 2014

Animandel - I have noticed changes in hospitals. Some of the more notable ones being that many hospitals have relaxed the rules for visitation hours. Being alone in a hospital all day and night can be depressing. Visits from friends and family mean a lot.

Hospitals are more relaxed than they were at one time. Uniforms are not so rigid. They are more diverse and cheery. And more personal items are allowed in rooms to give the patient a sense of home.

By Animandel — On Jan 30, 2014

Drentel - That's why so many hospitals have made changes over the years. We now see that a patient's mental and emotional health is connected to his or her physical health. No longer is treating the broken arm and dismissing the frighten ego acceptable.

By Drentel — On Jan 29, 2014

If there is a connection between depression and the immune system then that is unfortunate. After all, when you are ill ( I mean seriously ill) getting depressed can be a natural reaction, and if that is going to weaken your immune system then your chance of recovery is not going to be as good. I think that is an example of the double edged sword.

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