It is becoming increasingly evident that inflammation, being an integral part of the body’s natural healing process, has a major effect on mental health and wellbeing. While inflammation has numerous beneficial effects, such as combating infection and defending bodily tissue, it can also have negative impacts if present for too long. As the mind and body are closely linked, it is unsurprising that the process of inflammation can have both short and long-term effects on mental health, with different strategies and interventions required depending on the individual.
Short-Term Effects of Inflammation on Mental Health
In the short-term, inflammation can create an array of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, lack of concentration and motivation, and feelings of despair. From a physiological point of view, inflammation can cause changes in serotonin and cortisol levels, both of which have a significant influence on mental health. Other possible effects of inflammation-mediated disturbances in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, key components in mood regulation, can result in people feeling overly stressed, exhausted and negative.
Long-Term Effects of Inflammation on Mental Health
Over time, constant inflammation can jeopardise physical and mental health and lead to a variety of psychological and psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Brain imaging studies have suggested that chronic inflammation can reduce the bulk of grey matter in the brain, which transmits communication between nerve cells and helps to control decision-making, emotions, and behaviour.
Strategies for Countering the Impact of Inflammation
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that can be implemented in order to counteract inflammation’s effect on mental health. One effective strategy is to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, having a balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Adherence to these habits can lead to a natural reduction in inflammation and provide a successful means of restoring better mental health.
Moreover, there are treatments available to target the psychological effects of inflammation, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, medication, and lifestyle interventions. Depending on the individual, these treatments can have a profound influence in aiding the recovery process and reduce the strain of inflammation-related psychological disorders.
Overall, inflammation has a significant effect on mental health and wellbeing, necessitating the implementation of certain strategies to minimize its impact in the short and long-term. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is a beneficial approach to counteracting inflammation, in addition to seeking appropriate medical treatment where necessary.