Depression and the Mind-Body Connection

At Art as Therapy we believe in a holistic approach to wellbeing. Our physical health affects our mental health, and vice versa. Factors such as healthy diet, exercise, sleep and play all influence our ability to feel and do our best in the world. In order to thrive, we need to take care of our minds and our bodies.

Recent neuroscience research is providing exciting evidence to support our view. Last week, CBC radio’s The Current aired an audio documentary entitled “Depression might be an allergic reaction to stress” (follow this link to hear the audio: suggests-depression-may-be-an-allergic-reaction-to-stress/ ). In the documentary, neuroscientist

Georgina Hodes discussed her recent research into the links between depression and the human immune system. Until now, depression has been widely understood as a disorder that occurs in the brain, but Hodes suggests that it may also be occurring in the body. In fact, depression may be like an allergic reaction to life’s stresses. Here’s how it works: When you have an allergic reaction, your body perceives that a substance entering your body (eg. pollen) is a threat. In response, your body creates an inflammatory response to protect you from the perceived threat. The reaction is more intense than it needs to be, because the pollen does not represent a real danger. As a result, you experience allergy symptoms such as a stuffed up nose, a sore throat, or a headache. Similarly, depression can be understood as an allergic response to stress. When your body notices that you are experiencing stress, it might perceive that stress to be more of a threat than it really is. In order to protect you, your immune system might create an inflammatory response that is more intense than it needs to be. When this inflammatory response lasts over weeks and months, it can result in the symptoms of depression like fatigue, changes in sleep and appetite, social withdrawal, and a lack of interest in things that you previously enjoyed.

This view of depression as an allergic response provides support for mind-body techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and naturopathic medicine as treatment options for depression. At Art as Therapy we believe that mind-body techniques are essential for effective treatment. We offer mindfulness-based art directives and art-based meditation techniques, and we also work closely with Harmony Health Naturopathic Clinic. If you have any questions about depression or how art therapy can help, please contact us! We would love to hear from you.