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What happens to the brain when mental illness is present but left untreated? We might ignore our symptoms or not be aware that we are experiencing symptoms of mental illness. Though we don’t acknowledge and treat our mental illnesses, like depression, that doesn’t mean they aren’t active inside of our mind. Each part of the brain is affected differently by each mental illness. Without intervention and treatment, a mental illness like depression continues to have an effect on the brain. New research has brought to light what exactly might be happening to the brain when depression goes untreated.

Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, the study found that long-term untreated depression leads to inflammation in the brain. The study was conducted by the same team of researchers who originally discovered that inflammation and depression had a connection in the brain, according to Forbes. Researchers tested for inflammation by targeting a specific protein in the brain which is produced as the brain inflames, in response to mental illnesses. Using PET scans, the researchers were able to find correlations between how long participants had untreated depression and how much of the specific protein was in different areas of the brain.

Though the sample size was small, just 80 participants, the findings are significant. Depression went untreated in participants for anywhere from more than ten years to less than ten years. Less than half of the participants had never been diagnosed with depression. Those who had untreated depression the longest had more inflammation in the brain and higher levels of the protein researchers were seeking to find. The prefrontal cortex, for example, had higher levels of the protein and inflammation. Day to day functions which feel impaired by depression happen in the prefrontal cortex. If there is inflammation in the cortex long term, it makes sense for there to be a connection to untreated depression.

Why Inflammation Is A Problem

Inflammation is protective for the brain, to a point. When inflammation is chronic, it stops being helpful and becomes harmful. Inflammation is the core source of all disease and disorder. Chronic inflammation in the brain can lead to the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Stress of all kinds is a major contributor to inflammation. Depression is a kind of stress on the brain. Left untreated for potentially a decade or more, the brain will naturally become more inflamed.

Thankfully, there are treatments and therapies available which can help heal the brain, reduce inflammation, and even cause depression to enter remission.

If you suspect you have been living with untreated depression, the cause may be trauma. The Guest House Ocala offers you residential programming specifically designed for the healing of trauma, addictions, and related mental health issues. Call us today for information on our concierge customization and life at our private estate: 1-855-483-7800