Lyme Disease Linked to Increased Psychiatric Disorder Risk

In the past, researchers have questioned whether an association exists between Lyme disease and psychiatric or mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, or even suicidal ideation. While some recognized a tentative or potential link, no concrete data has shown this link – until now. According to Outbreak News Today, researchers used Denmark’s National Patient Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register to perform a retrospective study on Lyme and psychiatric disorders. From the research, it was determined that Lyme disease significantly increases the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. Interested in learning more? Take a look at the data published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The Research

Altogether, researchers sourced data from 6,945,837 people over a 22-year period. The study, funded by the Global Lyme Alliance, included approximately 12,156 patients who had received a Lyme disease diagnosis. Next, researchers began evaluating this population – compared to others – in regards to psychiatric disorder risk. The paper accounts for other factors such as age, biological sex, socioeconomic status, and comorbidities. Findings from the study include:

  • Patients with a singular Lyme disease diagnosis saw their risk of developing a psychiatric disorder increase by 24%. Alternately, the risk further rises to 79% if the person has been diagnosed more than once or has had more than one episode.
  • In patients, the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder was specifically prevalent in those ages 20 to 29. Additionally, the risk increased most within the first 6 months of infection.
  • In terms of suicide, patients with Lyme disease were 75% more likely to commit suicide than “healthy” individuals. The risk of suicide or suicidal ideations was greatest within the first 3 years following infection.

Thus, patients who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease and find themselves struggling with mental health should speak to their physicians immediately. At the same time, doctors should begin recognizing the potential association between these two events.

Lyme Disease

Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi) bacteria cause Lyme disease, a vector-borne illness typically spread by ticks. In the United States, the western black-legged tick spreads the infection on the West coast, while deer ticks are more likely to spread the infection throughout the rest of the country. While other bacteria may cause a Lyme disease infection, B. burgdorferi is the most common. An estimated 30,000 individuals report their diagnoses to the CDC each year, though the prevalence of infection is thought to be higher. Symptoms usually appear within 3-30 days following infection. These include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash at the site of infection

Following these initial symptoms, more will appear within a few days or months. Later-stage symptoms include:

  • Severe headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rashes
  • Neck stiffness
  • Facial palsy
  • Severe joint inflammation
  • Brain and spinal cord inflammation
  • Nerve, joint, muscle, tendon, and bone pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Arthritis

In many cases, patients may treat symptoms using a 2-4 week course of antibiotics.

Learn more about Lyme disease.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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