Is Lyme Disease a Potential Link to Mental Health Problems?


Lyme disease is an infection by a type of bacteria called a spirochete. This type of bacteria is carried by deer ticks and when an infected tick bites an animal or human the bacterium can get onto the new host. If left untreated, this bacterium can make its way through the bloodstream and travel to different body tissues and cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Lyme disease is currently the most common arthropod borne illness in the Unites States.

150,000 Lyme disease cases have been reported to the CDCU since 1982. There have been over fifty years of research on the casual link between psychiatric issues and infectious disease. But even with all these years of research and experience, people with Lyme disease are still not receiving the care from the healthcare system to properly identify and treat those with Lyme disease. Why are there people being overlooked?

There are several reasons:

  1. Lyme disease is very complex and can vary greatly in how it affects the brain and the body. Symptoms are varied and some people show symptoms quickly while others may not even show symptoms for months or years-and at that time they may not even remember, or be aware of, a tick bite.
  2. Not having a correct diagnosis can affect people not getting the care they need.
  3. There is a lack of acceptance of Lyme disease in the healthcare community and not enough accurately trained health care providers. This slows down accurate diagnosis and treatment for patients.

Research since the 90’s has shown a link between Lyme disease and various psychiatric problems. For example, research done in 2002 showed that 33 percent of psychiatric patients also had Lyme disease. Things like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, memory issues as well as other issues have been shown to have connections with tick-borne bacteria.

Lyme disease can affect the brain and release toxins into the brain and body; this can cause changes to the emotional center of the brain. The bacteria can burrow into the brain, causing symptoms and potentially long-term damage with brain swelling or inflammation which can also lead to psychiatric issues.

In 2018, Shreya Doshi MA saw that for post treatment of Lyme disease symptoms, 45 percent of patients showed symptoms of depression. Also, 89% of pediatric bipolar disorder patients also had pathogens including the bacteria for Lyme disease.

The problem is that it takes a person having symptoms seeing 5-7 doctors before they can even get an accurate diagnosis of Lyme disease. The symptoms of the illness are also similar to so many other conditions it can be a challenge to diagnose.

The important thing to remember is that if you or a loved one has medical or mental health issues that cannot be explained and/or doesn’t respond to typical therapy, know that an infectious disease, like Lyme disease, should be looked at as a potential cause.

The first step is to find a medial professional who is up to date on Lyme disease so you do not waste time going to an less informed doctor.

Read more about Lyme disease and mental health here. 

Follow us