Immune disorder may be cause of some psychosis cases

A new study in Lancet Psychiatry has suggested that some patients who have developed psychotic conditions may have developed their symptoms due to problems with their immune system.

As reported by BBC News, the UK-wide trial study involved taking blood samples from 228 people.  For some patients, the research suggested that their antibodies were attacking the ‘NMDA’ receptors in the brain – in short, their immune system was disrupting the communication between brain cells.

Professor Lennox, study lead, suggested that this might offer an “exciting advance for psychiatry” and provide new avenues of treatment.  However, these findings are controversial; the BBC quoted Dr Dalmau from the University of Barcelona who suggested that the proportion of patients affected in this way by immune system problems was likely to be very low.

Around 0.4% of the UK population is estimated to experience a psychotic illness.  While men and women are estimated to have a similar incidence of these issues, men are almost 50% more likely than women to be detained and treated compulsorily as psychiatric inpatients (see Men’s Health Forum).  This suggests men could both seek, or be offered, help sooner, when it comes to psychiatric disorders.  If you are worried about your own mental health, or about someone else, there is help and support available from charities such as Rethink and Mind.