Following a Guardian article by Ed Bullmore, I tweeted today asking why psychiatry allows and encourages speculation about depression being an inflammatory disorder. As I've said before (eg. see previous post), it’s non-sensical to believe that depression is a form of inflammation. Yet, as in the article by Bullmore, such speculation is promoted as a “new frontier” which could lead to “breakthroughs” in the treatment of depression, with the “potential to transform our thinking about illness more broadly”. Exciting stuff apparently! But why the hype?
Of course part of the reason is to encourage participants to express an interest in the NIMA ATP trial. More fundamentally, the real problem is that depression is not always easy to treat (see previous post). We always need hope that there might be simpler and more effective treatments (see eg. previous post). I don't want to appear pessimistic about the treatment of depression. There can be spontaneous improvement over time. People have considerable personal resources and resilience to be able to overcome and adapt to their difficulties.
Of course psychiatry is merely responding to our idealistic wish for a simple, quick, cheap, painless and complete cure for depression. It does this for psychological therapy as well as medication (eg. see previous post). But promoting myths that depression is due to inflammation does not justify deflecting from the hard work required to help people recover from their depression.