Etiology of mental illness

It is already over 100 years of research on the etiology of mental illness. And we still do not have a clear answer what causes mental illness. This can be explained by the fact that we keep dividing disease into mental and physical. And our common assumption still often is that the brain is the prime place to look for answers to mental disease.

Though, nowadays we are talking with more confidence about the involvement of the immune system in major mental illnesses. Macrophage/T cell theory of depression and schizophrenia states that chronically activated macrophages (and their counter parts in the brain, i.e., microglia) and T cells produce cytokines and inflammatory compounds impacting brain development and predisposing the brain in such way that genetic and environmental influences are able to precipitate the symptoms of schizophrenia and depression.

Excessive secretion of macrophage monokines is proposed as the cause of depression. This theory provides an explanation for the significant association of depression with coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke and other diseases where macrophage activation occurs. The prevalence of female incidence of depression is accounted for by estrogen’s ability to activate macrophages.

The Macrophage/T cell theory recommends depressive patients to be thoroughly examined for hidden or overt infection, tissue damage or dying tissue. Careful and comprehensive experiments using an elimination diet in order to investigate the food-gut-allergy-behavior axis in affective disorders is advised. And last but not least fish oil is seen as a prophylactic against depression.

The Macrophage/T cell theory of depression theory is one of the building blocks of Sacred time program, part of ‘RESET your immune system’ protocol of Dr. Anna Huysse.


Beumer, W., Gibney, S. M., Drexhage, R. C., Pont‐Lezica, L., Doorduin, J., Klein, H. C., . . . Drexhage, H. A. (2012). The immune theory of psychiatric diseases: a key role for activated microglia and circulating monocytes. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 92(5), 959-975. doi:10.1189/jlb.0212100

Smith, R. S. (1991). The macrophage theory of depression. Medical Hypotheses, 35(4), 298-306. doi:10.1016/0306-9877(91)90272-z

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