Lyme disease patients struggle with depression
It was a great loss to hear that depression and suicide has robbed us of our beloved Robin Williams. The actor and comedian’s death has brought depression and mental illness into the spotlight, once again. It also gives us an opportunity to discuss the role depression plays in the lives of far too many Lyme disease patients.
There is growing evidence that Lyme disease can lead to psychiatric symptoms, including anxiety disorders and depression. There have been cases where chronically ill Lyme disease patients were suicidal. But, whether psychiatric manifestations, including suicidal ideation, are due to an infection or the result of struggling with a debilitating condition is unknown.
One study found that more than 1/3 of patients with chronic neurologic Lyme disease suffered from depression, in addition to fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, lightheadedness, and joint pain.
While depression is not uncommon in patients with chronic illness, it does seem to be more prevalent among patients with Lyme disease, according to Dr. Robert Bransfield, a New Jersey-based psychiatrist, who specializes in treating tick-borne disease infections.
“In my database, depression is the most common psychiatric syndrome associated with late stage Lyme disease,” states Dr. Bransfield in his paper “Lyme Disease, Depression and Suicide.”
Individuals with Lyme disease may also find themselves subject to the same stigma described for depression. The reluctance of some clinicians to acknowledge the existence and severity of any thing more than an acute disease only fuels the stigma.
The national conversation on depression reminds us of the need to remove barriers for Lyme disease patients who are already feeling overwhelmed and stigmatized.