Can Inflammation Explain Why Some Develop Mental Illness?

Here's what's happening on the HealthyPlace site this week:

Researchers are finding that inflammation is a risk factor for nearly every mental disorder, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and PTSD. Read more on HealthyPlace.

Can Inflammation Explain Why Some Develop Mental Illness?

An important question has puzzled scientists, mental health professionals, and people living with mental illness: Why do some people develop mental illness while others don’t?

Consider PTSD. Not everyone exposed to the same trauma will develop PTSD. Why is this? Theories point to genetics, resilience factors, and support systems, but pieces of the puzzle are still missing. A piece has clicked into place: inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to a stressor, but if it becomes chronic, body and brain can suffer damage. Researchers are finding that inflammation is a risk factor for nearly every mental disorder, among them:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD

In a Psychiatric Times article, Dr. Charles Raison asserts that “Brain states that produce mental illness also tend to activate inflammation. And inflammation is equally capable of producing depression, anxiety, fatigue, and social withdrawal.”

Crucial takeaways help you put the inflammation information in perspective as well as put it to good use for your own mental health:

  • The presence or absence of inflammation could partially explain why some but not others develop a mental disorder.
  • Inflammation and mental illness contribute to, but don’t directly cause, each other.
  • Treating inflammation can be an effective mental illness treatment. Diet, stress management, exercise, and removal of toxins are some ways to reduce inflammation.


Kraybill, O.G. (2018). How to maintain progress after trauma: Why a self-sustainability play has to be included in trauma treatment. Psychology Today. Retrieved August 2019 from

Raison, C. (2018). Introduction: The inflammation connection. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved August 2019 from

Related Articles Dealing with Mental Illness Causes, Examples

Your Thoughts

Today's Question: Has your mental health professional ever mentioned inflammation as a potential source of your mental illness or a risk factor for developing it? We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, August 27). Can Inflammation Explain Why Some Develop Mental Illness?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Last Updated: August 27, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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