Although evidence is slowly mounting, we have a great deal to learn about the relationship between inflammation and anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are common. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015, an estimated 3.6% of the global population had an anxiety disorder, which is around 264 million people.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a protective response that helps the body rid itself of the offending stimuli and protect the body. However, if inflammation persists, it can damage the cells and tissues it is designed to protect.
Linking Inflammation and Anxiety
Although there is now good evidence of links between inflammation and depression, less research has examined the relationship between inflammation and anxiety.
Steadily, scientists are building up a body of evidence.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by mental distress. However, they may also be associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, and metabolic disorders.
Because these conditions involve low grade systemic inflammation and because depression often comes hand in hand with anxiety, some scientists are asking whether inflammation might therefore play a part in anxiety disorders.
Although the evidence of a link between inflammation and mental health is becoming stronger, scientists have a long path to traverse before they fully understand the importance of this relationship.
The immune system is an incredibly complicated topic, and mental health conditions are still poorly understood. Once we add the dizzying levels of complexity involved in the microbiome, we have a punishingly convoluted problem to unpick.
As researchers chip away, the picture is sure to become clearer. However, as a conclusion, it seems likely that inflammation plays at least some part in anxiety, but we will have to wait for more research before we can make solid conclusions and, importantly, use the information to tackle anxiety.