There is a very large and active area of scientific study demonstrating that the immune system—and inflammatory activity in particular—is related to depression and other psychiatric symptoms. There are hundreds of studies demonstrating these links, including experimental evidence that inflammation causes depression. Drugs are in development to target treatment-resistant depression with anti-inflammatory agents.
Although there are some rudimentary retrospective studies demonstrating increased inflammation in people who have self-diagnosed premenstrual mood changes, we do not yet have solid evidence about whether higher baseline levels of inflammation (or greater inflammatory reactions to stress) are related to carefully-diagnosed PMDD.
One of my mentor’s ongoing studies looks at this question, and we hope to examine the results of that study soon. Another of my upcoming studies look at inflammatory gene expression in response to hormone changes across the cycle in females with perimenstrual exacerbation of chronic suicidality.
In the end, I do suspect there is a link, even if it is just a case of inflammation intensifying PMDD that is caused by other factors. I am hopeful that identifying any cyclical changes in brain inflammation can eventually be part of the solution, but we’re not there yet.
Updated 22 December, 2018 by Tory Eisenlohr-Moul, PhD