Stress, Depression and Immunity
People who claim "the stress is killing me" may not be far off the mark. Stress has been conclusively linked to a host of mental and physical conditions. Depressive illness alone affects one in ten Canadians. Furthermore, depressed patients access health care services an average of six times more often for physical maladies both real and imagined.
As cost for the treatment of depression and anxiety continues to soar along with the steady increase in new patients, researchers are redoubling their efforts to provide new relief.
Dr. Hymie Anisman is a world-renowned neuroscientist and leading researcher on the causes of stress-induced illness. His exploration of the pharmacological and neurochemical basis for depression and anxiety has received numerous international citations. He and his team are now engaged in extending that research beyond looking for causes to looking for ways to counteract the changes brought on by stress.
Dr. Anisman's research examines the effect that stress has on chemical and hormonal activity in the brain. These neurochemical alterations are the same as those associated with chronic depression. There is also evidence to suggest persons who might be genetically predisposed to depression (by family history) are made more susceptible to developing severe symptoms from stress.
Stress-induced physical changes are also under study. It is thought that acute stressful events lead to alterations of immune system activity, making a person vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections which their bodies might otherwise resist with ease.
Since bi-directional communication occurs between the brain and the immune system, the researchers are also attempting to determine what signaling molecules might be involved in this interaction, and how these come to influence anxiety and depression.
As the central research continues, the researchers are evaluating various compounds that might reduce anxiety. These involve new pharmacological treatments, including natural herb compounds that have fewer side effects than current medications.