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Lyme Disease and Mental Health


Lyme Disease and Mental Health

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness spread by deer ticks and caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The virus spreads to humans through tick bites.

Lyme disease, like many other chronic illnesses, has a substantial influence on mental health. This could be because of the spread of Lyme infection to the brain and/or the burden of Lyme disease.

Many patients with Lyme disease must wait too long for correct diagnoses and treatment because of the inaccuracy and sensitivity of today's standard Lyme tests. Because of this, the infection has more time to propagate throughout the body, including the brain, resulting in neurological and behavioral problems.

If Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics, most patients make a full recovery.


Lyme disease and psychological well-being

Lyme disease isn’t the only infectious disease linked to mental disorders. Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, is one of the first and most well-known infectious diseases to induce neurological and psychological symptoms. Like Lyme disease, syphilis is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria and can be treated with medicines in the early stages.

Syphilis is often called "the great imitator" because its symptoms can be broad and nonspecific, especially in the late stages, and this includes neurological and psychological symptoms, which become far more likely as the disease progresses.

Recent research has looked into the probable links between Lyme disease and various mental health conditions, including:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Developmental problems
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Dementia
  • Seizures
  • Suicide

How does Lyme disease have a negative impact on mental health?

Lyme disease can have a negative impact on a patient's mental health in various ways, such as:

Direct (biological) consequences: Lyme disease can infiltrate the central nervous system and cause organic neurological and psychiatric symptoms. Neurological Lyme disease, often known as Lyme neuroborreliosis, is the medical term for this condition.

Indirect effects: Living with Lyme disease and/or being treated for it can produce worry, sorrow, and other mental health concerns that aren't directly caused by the bacterium but are indirectly caused or exacerbated by the disease's experience.

Neurological Lyme disease resulting in neurological symptoms

When the Lyme bacteria infect the central nervous system, neurological Lyme disease, also known as Lyme neuroborreliosis, develops. Neurological Lyme disease is sometimes referred to as a Lyme infection of the brain. According to studies, up to 15%-40% of patients with late-stage Lyme disease have neurological problems.

If the initial infection is not treated, neurological Lyme disease can take months or years to develop. Its extensive range of symptoms can be far more difficult to cure once they develop, emphasizing the significance of early detection.

Nerve pain that starts in the back and radiates down the legs is a common symptom of neurological Lyme disease. Over time, this might lead to weakness, numbness, or tingling in the lower extremities. Bell's palsy, commonly known as facial palsy, is a condition in which one side of the face is temporarily paralyzed.


Following these first symptoms (which may or may not appear in all patients), late-stage Lyme disease symptoms include the following:

  • Depression
  • Panic attacks or anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Rage or violence
  • Obsessions and/or compulsions
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention and focus issues
  • Antisocial conduct
  • Hallucinations
  • Brain fog
  • Confusion or memory issues
  • Executive functioning difficulties
  • Disorganization
  • Loss of direction
  • Communication issues
  • Processing issues


Effects of Lyme disease on mental health

According to the CDC, having a chronic ailment is a risk factor for mental illness. This emphasizes the fact that, even in people who do not develop neurological Lyme disease, Lyme disease can induce or exacerbate mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Getting Lyme disease identified and treated can be stressful and demanding, especially if it takes a long time, which for many people might be many years.

Patients frequently face contradictory or erroneous diagnoses, a lack of support from medical providers, and astronomical medical expenses while suffering physically and mentally debilitating symptoms with no end in sight. This might significantly decrease the quality of life, which may cause mental illness.

Depression is one of the most common adverse effects of chronic illness. About a third of people with serious, acute, or chronic medical conditions suffer from depression symptoms. Thus, many doctors now recommend treating a patient's depression and their medical condition at the same time.

Having a chronic illness can aggravate the signs and symptoms of a mental health issue, such as depression. Physical pain from sickness, grief over losses associated with the condition, anticipatory fear, and a sense of hopelessness that life will never be the same affect symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other conditions.


Ways to cope and improve mental health

Chronic sickness and mental health illness, if left untreated, can drain people with the condition, their families, coworkers, and communities. Chronic disease is a full-time job for everyone around the affected person as well.

It's difficult to start a new life or get back to routine when you have a chronic condition like Lyme disease. It's also normal and natural to feel fear and sorrow while you comprehend your diagnosis and deal with the consequences. Treatment, complications, and expenses can take a toll on mental health.

There are several ways that can help cope with and improve mental health while suffering from Lyme disease. They include:

  • Keeping in touch with medical professionals:

It's critical to form bonds with the medical professionals who are guiding you through this process. Being able to freely discuss your continuing questions and concerns will provide you with more information about your disease and help you feel more at ease.

  • Seeking the help of a mental health professional:

Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. CBT is a type of psychotherapy. Patients with chronic illnesses are prone to negative self-talk. Because adjusting to a new way of life can be mentally draining, many people seek cognitive behavioral therapy to help them break the cycle of negative thought patterns that are at the root of their depression.

  • Being surrounded by people who understand and care:

Surrounding yourself with people who care and understand the situation can make a massive difference. Living with a chronic disease can be isolating. It can be tough to connect with others and receive the help you need because of isolation, mental illness, or physical restrictions. That's why it's critical to have a strong support system in place, including both personal and professional help.

  • Self-care:

Self-care includes both physical and mental health. Reduced stress, better sleep, and adhering to the medical provider's treatment recommendations are beneficial for both mental illness and chronic health disorders. Dietary adjustments and exercise can often result in a significant reduction in symptoms. Taking time out for hobbies and other activities can help improve mental health and be a distraction.

  • Joining a support group:

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers aren't always the best sources of knowledge about how to recover from an illness, especially mentally and emotionally. Look for a support group, online or offline, and talk to people who have gone through what you are going through. This can increase your support system and improve your mental health.