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Lyme Disease and Mental Health: Some Recent Findings

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Lyme disease is an elusive ailment that has steadily become more and more of a concern to the general public while, in some ways, still remaining an anomaly in medicine. Given the severe effect that Lyme disease can potentially have on the public’s health and sense of well-being, the lack of awareness that the average person has about the disease is disheartening.  

One aspect of Lyme disease that has remained mysterious to the medical community is its effect on the mental health of those with the disease. Getting a grasp of the medical community’s current understanding of how Lyme disease affects the mental health of patients affected by it can provide one with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of this multifaceted enigma of a disease.

Here are some recent findings on the correlation between Lyme disease and negatively impacted mental health. 

What Is Lyme disease?

Before understanding how Lyme disease can impact mental health, it’s important to have an understanding of the disease itself, such as what causes Lyme disease and its common symptoms. As of now, the medical consensus is that one must be bitten by a tick that is infected by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, to become infected with Lyme disease. 

Lyme disease can manifest itself in those infected in varying ways. The symptoms of the disease include rashes, facial palsy, headaches, breathing difficulty, and neurological problems such as memory problems. While some individuals experience these symptoms for short periods of time, others may experience these symptoms chronically, even after treatments have been completed.

Lyme disease has also been shown to have an impact on the mental health of many of those affected by the ailment. While it has been difficult for medical professionals, scientists, and researchers to pinpoint how and why Lyme disease affects mental health, new findings are beginning to shed some insight on the topic. 

How Lyme disease impacts mental health 

Over the years that doctors have been dealing with Lyme disease, the disease’s exact correlation to mental health has been unclear. Thankfully, due to many years of study, there have been some recent developments in the medical community’s understanding of Lyme disease’s impact on mental health. 

Doctors have been aware that Lyme disease can negatively impact mental health for some time now. In past decades, some in the medical community posited that the physical symptoms that people experienced as a result of contracting the disease were what caused their mental health to be negatively impacted. However, recent findings have begun to indicate that this is false and that Lyme disease itself may have a direct impact on the mental health of those affected by it. 

A recent study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that individuals who had gone to the hospital and were found to have Lyme disease experienced mental illness at a 28% higher rate than those without Lyme disease. In addition, the individuals who had a record of being infected with Lyme disease were found to be significantly more at risk of committing suicide in the first three years after treatment than their counterparts who were never diagnosed with Lyme disease. 

What this study seems to indicate is that Lyme disease itself seems to affect the mental health of those who contract the disease even after they have been treated for it. While there is still more to be learned about the elusive disease, new studies may have a significant impact on how people are treated for Lyme disease-related mental illnesses. 

Whereas in the past patients may have been prescribed certain treatments or medications for specific mental illnesses, these studies seem to indicate that these treatments, such as therapy or anti-depressants, may not be able to help these individuals. More studies on the efficacy of various treatments to specifically treat Lyme disease-related mental illnesses have the ability to profoundly impact how people are treated for this disease. 

Lyme disease today 

While more studies are being conducted on Lyme disease and its effects, the ailment still poses a significant threat to the health of many people. Concerning the Lyme disease outlook for 2022, some professionals are worried that we may see higher cases than usual this year. 

Professionals predict that more people will be infected by Lyme disease this year as a result of warmer weather patterns. As has been noted, Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites. Ticks typically become less active in winter because of the fact that they don’t fare well in cold weather. As winters have become warmer, ticks have become more prevalent during this season.

This increase in ticks has resulted in an increase in tick bites, which means more people are at risk of contracting Lyme disease. Professionals are cautioning people to be warier of ticks this year and to do their best to refrain from exposing their skin in areas where ticks are prevalent. 

New perspectives on Lyme disease

While doctors have been treating patients with Lyme disease for decades, the disease has remained elusive in many ways. New studies are beginning to indicate that Lyme disease likely has a more significant impact on the mental health of those who contract the disease than was previously thought. While there is still more to learn about the disease, recent years have provided the medical community with an abundance of new information about Lyme disease and may have an extremely positive impact on the development of new treatments.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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