Research Finds Link Between Autoimmune Disorders and Psychosis


Previous studies have shown that there is a connection between autoimmune disorders and psychosis, but findings showed conflicting results, and researchers couldn’t reach a conclusion.

In a quest to solve this issue, researchers at King’s College London did a meta-analysis of 30 studies that contained a total of 25 million people’s data. The findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, titled “Associations Between Non-Neurological Autoimmune Disorders and Psychosis.” The authors of the paper are Alexis E. Cullen, Scarlett Holmes, Dan W. Joyce, Matthew J. Kempton, Thomas A. Pollak, Graham Blackman, Robin M. Murray, Philip McGuire, and Valeria Mondelli.

In their study, researchers at King’s College London focused on autoimmune disorders which would affect the peripheral system. They focused on disorders that would target the body (and not the brain), to see if they would also affect the mind.

Specific Autoimmune Diseases Can Show Signs of Psychosis

The researchers had two analysis. The first one, and the main analysis was to combine all data from the non-neurological autoimmune disorders while leaving out rheumatoid arthritis – which was proven by many studies to have a negative association between it and psychosis. The main analysis found that people suffering from an autoimmune disorder were 40% more likely to also have a psychotic disorder.

The second analysis examined people with individual autoimmune disorders were the findings showed which disease increased the likelihood of having psychosis. Researchers found that individuals suffering from pemphigoid, psoriasis, coeliac disease, Grave’s disease, and pernicious anemia were more likely to have psychosis. There was a low likelihood for patients with ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Regardless of the mechanism, these findings suggest that careful monitoring of individuals with specific autoimmune diseases (particularly anaemia, Graves’ disease, and pemphigoid, as these were the most consistent effects) for early signs of psychosis is warranted,” wrote the authors.

Researchers believe that inflammation is the cause of psychosis, as studies showed that they have higher levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, and autoimmune diseases are characterized by it. However, there is a lower occurrence of psychosis in ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis patients – both diseases show high levels of inflammation. Researchers believe that genetics could also be part of the link between autoimmune diseases and psychosis.

In a press release, lead researcher Dr. Alexis Cullen stated which was the purpose of their study:

“Our study shows that overall, people with any autoimmune disorder are around 40 percent more likely to develop psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. The finding that psychosis is associated with non-neurological autoimmune disorders, which are not known to directly target the brain, is particularly important.”


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