Larry Langdon
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Lyme Disease Increases Risk for Mental Illness

Lyme Disease Increases Risk for Mental Illness

According to a recent study by American and Danish experts, people with Lyme disease who were hospitalized had a 28% greater prevalence of mental illnesses and were twice as likely to have tried suicide after infection as people without the diagnosis.

It is thought that the study, a partnership between Columbia University and the Copenhagen Research Centre for Mental Health, is the first significant population-based analysis of the association between Lyme disease and psychiatric disorders.

The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry's online edition on July 28.

The principal author of the study, psychiatrist Brian Fallon, MD, MPH, of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, said, "It is time to go beyond thinking of Lyme disease as a basic sickness that merely causes a rash. Lyme illness can cause significant mental health problems in addition to the risk of serious cardiac, rheumatologic, and neurologic problems."

The Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia is directed by Dr. Fallon, one of the world's leading experts on the neuropsychiatric effects of Lyme disease. Michael Benros, MD, PhD, the study's primary investigator; Trine Madsen, PhD, the co-first author; and Annette Erlangsen, PhD, all psychiatric epidemiologists at the Research Centre for Mental Health, make up the research team.


Higher rate of suicide deaths

The researchers compared the mental health information of people who received a hospital-based Lyme disease diagnosis to the rest of the Danish population who had never had a Lyme diagnosis recorded in the national medical register to conduct their study. Over a 22-year period, the researchers examined the medical records diagnoses of nearly 7 million people living in Denmark.

Prior to receiving a Lyme disease diagnosis, patients who had a history of mental illness or suicidal ideation were not included in the study.

In addition to having a higher risk for mental disorders and suicide attempts, the analysis showed that patients with Lyme disease also had a 42% higher rate of affective disorders like depression and bipolar disorder and a 75% higher rate of suicide deaths than those without the diagnosis.

Additionally, a higher incidence of mental problems, emotional disorders, and suicide attempts was linked to having had more than one episode of Lyme disease.

Every year, 500,000 people receive treatment for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, commonly known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection that spreads to humans by deer ticks and is identified and treated in close to half a million people each year in the United States. The northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central states have reported several instances, but the geographic area where ticks and diseases transmitted by ticks are discovered is still growing.

A 2- to 4-week course of oral antibiotics can cure the majority of cases, but 10%-20% of patients may experience pain, lethargy, or difficulties thinking for months or years after therapy.

Dr. Michael Benros stresses that the majority of patients do not experience serious mental health problems as a result of Lyme borreliosis. Only 7% of the almost 13,000 people with Lyme disease hospital diagnoses throughout the study period followed up with hospital physicians, complaining of symptoms later identified as mental illnesses.


Risk awareness is important for clinicians and patients

The study's results, however, are representative of a pattern in patients with Lyme disease, according to the researchers, and should not be disregarded. The Danish medical registry only records psychiatric diagnoses made in hospitals and not by community-based clinicians; therefore, the actual number of people who develop new mental health issues as a result of infection is probably significantly greater.

According to Dr. Benros, "this cross-country study demonstrates the link between Lyme illness and psychiatric disorders." Patients should seek treatment and advice if they experience mental health difficulties, and treating professionals should be aware of the elevated risk of mental health disorders, especially in the first year following a severe Lyme disease infection.


How does Lyme disease affect mental health?

It's a popular misperception that "chemical imbalances" cause depression and other ailments of a similar kind, but the reality is more complex.

According to Harvard Health, the system in people with depression may have receptors that are "oversensitive or insensitive to a specific neurotransmitter, causing their response to its release to be excessive or inadequate," or they may send a weaker message if there is not enough neurotransmitter.

Basically, significant mood swings could arise from any changes in our brain chemistry.

Although some studies claim that depression and anxiety are two distinct diseases, others have found that the two can occasionally coexist.

There is research on both, depending on the chronic condition. However, managing anxiety and depression while suffering from a chronic illness can be difficult.

The good news is that it's not all in your head, and you are not just imagining it.

These symptoms might be caused by various reasons. Numerous studies have found that patients with chronic medical diseases are more likely to develop depression and anxiety, and that these two conditions can actually worsen one another when they coexist.

An analysis published in the American Journal of Pathology reveals that inflammation is a substantial contributor to mood disorders and mental illness in general, as well as to the wide range of brain abnormalities linked to Lyme disease.

Gut health in general affects overall health. Your stomach and brain are constantly in touch because of the gut-brain axis; thus, when the gut is out of balance, it throws off everything in the body. The intestinal lining has perforations and is no longer functioning correctly in the majority of patients with Lyme disease. Because of the unrestricted flow of undigested food molecules and other "bad stuff" into your system, this leads to nutritional inadequacies that have an effect on a person's mental and emotional well-being.

Nutrition is a crucial component of mental wellness. Although it is common to see slight mood swings, such as fury or irritability, after not eating, nutrition also plays a crucial role in our health. Studies show that people with anxiety and depression consume poorer-quality food. Some studies suggest that altering one's diet can reduce or even eliminate symptoms of various chronic conditions while enhancing one’s general quality of life.

The symptoms of your anxiety and sadness are influenced by the way you conduct your life. As household contaminants also cause melancholy and anxiety, we are urged to stay away from dangerous mold, pesticides (organophosphates), mercury, and certain prescription medications. Those who are exposed to pesticides have an approximately six-fold increased risk of getting depressive symptoms, according to a study that was published in the Annals of Epidemiology.


Speak with your doctor before taking any medications, including antidepressants or dietary supplements.

Antidepressants are frequently prescribed for anxiety or depression, but they aren't right for everyone, and they might not be effective in the absence of other factors, such as emotional support or vitamin deficiency. Antidepressants were initially licensed for short-term usage and are frequently not the long-term solution, so using them temporarily while you make lifestyle adjustments might be really beneficial.

Ask your doctor about natural supplements like S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) or B-vitamins like niacin if you're seeking more holistic ways to treat your anxiety or depression.


Address nutritional deficits to help improve mental health while battling a chronic illness

Multiple dietary deficits are typical, making life with Lyme disease already challenging. The response is significant and includes chronic disease, depressive symptoms, impaired symptoms, and much more when your brain and body are deficient in high-quality nourishment or if you consume food with inflammatory components like refined sugar.

Nutritional deficits are common, but having a chronic illness can make them worse. While taking supplements might be beneficial, as mentioned above, modest dietary adjustments can have a high effect on your Lyme disease and mental health issues.

There are trillions of bacteria in your digestive tract, some of which are beneficial to your health while others might harm it. Gut health is crucial to a healthy body. Certain dietary changes can alter your body's natural processes and enhance healthy bacteria while reducing inflammation.


Being physically active, seeking support from friends and family, spending time outdoors, receiving adequate sun exposure, and counselling can all help significantly. It is also important to get treated for Lyme disease and its associated symptoms.