Lyme disease patients may struggle with depression

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.[1]

“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.

  1. Bransfield. Suicide and Lyme and associated diseases Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat Jun 16;13:1575-1587, 2017

66 Replies to "Lyme disease patients may struggle with depression"

  • Kim
    01/12/2020 (9:27 am)

    Years ago, while in living in the Northeast, I experienced a spontaneous rash, with an extremely high fever. I didn’t seek medical treatment, as the symptoms went away (or so I thought) and, at the time, I was uninformed in regards to Lyme Disease. Shortly afterwards, I was involved in a car accident, in which I sustained neck injuries. From that time on, I became extremely fatigued, as it felt as though no amount of sleep was enough. I complained of being overly tired and overly achy for someone in their late 20’s. (I wasn’t on any medication of any kind, either, so it wasn’t a side effect of anything new.) I also began experiencing strange heart issues, as I would have chest pains and would feel that my heart was out of rhythm. I began having continual headaches — all of which I had originally linked only to the neck injuries from the accident. I then began having memory/ concentration issues, which had concerned me so much that I requested that my neurologist do an MRI on my brain to make sure that I had not sustained a brain I injury during the previous wreck. I had never experienced “brain fog” like that before. I had just completed a BS degree and became increasingly frustrated in how my concentration abilities had changed overnight, it seemed. I became depressed and kept telling everyone that something”was not right with my body,” neither physically nor mentally, as I had noticed significant changes. I began having anxiety, and my mood would fluctuate. Overall, it was as though I’d gone from someone in their late 20’s to someone much, much older, over the course of months, rather than years. After hearing of how prevalent Lyme Disease was in that area and of its symptoms, I recently had bloodwork done out of curiosity, which revealed that I had, in fact, been exposed to Lyme Disease at one point in my life. As I had never been treated for it, I was told that my body has fought it off naturally over the course of time. I still experience the “symptoms” of feeling fatigued, achy, and frustrated with concentration/ focus issues. And, I still deal with anxiety and depression. It has been a very frustrating experience, to say the least. Perhaps the most frustrating part has been not knowing what has been wrong all along. What course of action, if any, should I take at this point in regards to treatment? (I’m already scheduled for an appointment with a cardiologist to check out what’s been going on with my heart, either way.) I sympathize with everyone here and wish you all the best.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      01/12/2020 (9:49 am)

      I have seen patients who are not aware they have Lyme disease until they have been stressed by a Motor Vehicle Accident. A positive IgG test shows exposure. It does not mean the infection is over. I have Lyme disease patients in my practice where the IgG is positive but the infection is not over.

      • Christine Roussos
        11/06/2021 (9:14 am)

        Help me dr Cameron please. I’m suffering from tremors brain fog pain ringing in ears weakness vision loss 100 symptoms.

        • Dr. Daniel Cameron
          11/08/2021 (1:08 pm)

          I am sorry to hear you are ill. I typically have my patients see a number of specialists appropriate to their illness. You can also include a doctor for a Lyme disease evaluation. You can contact my office at 914-666-4665 if you need an evaluation.

  • M Cook
    01/09/2020 (6:57 pm)

    I’m recently diagnosed with lyme disease and reading this blog has brought me to tears
    I wasn’t as depressed as I am even when I was in prison or homeless when I was released I’m a single father of an amazing wonderful 2 year old and I just want to die I didn’t know what was wrong with me but reading this every symptom makes sense. I’ve made my concerns about my depression known to family members and they don’t seem to believe that I am unable to ‘get back up’ I need help

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      01/10/2020 (9:09 am)

      I have patients in my practice who have gone through a lot. My patients often hear conflicting opinions. Keep working on getting better.

  • Patrick
    02/09/2019 (11:18 am)

    Beginning in 2004, I had very severe neuroborreliosis that went undiagnosed for a year. I wanted to die. I was wandering around like a zombie. I went to bed every day hoping I would never wake up. When I did wake up, I was overwhelmed with sadness and my eyes would fill with tears. I had a dream job but I couldn’t even enjoy it. Then the physician did a spinal tap and started me on 40 days of intravenous antibiotics. The arthritis went away, and the shooting pains and pins and needles lessened, but the fatigue and mental fog and pessimism and negativity have never gone away. I am completely unable to handle stress, and I have to sleep 10 hours a day. Now, 15 years later, I still feel like I am 95 years old and should have died long ago. I feel older than my parents. I just want to die. I was lucky enough to have a Lyme literate psychiatrist who helped me reduce my life to something I could manage. Other people can’t understand what happened to me, and gradually most of my friends and colleagues wrote me off as a complainer, a malingerer, a loafer, a moocher, as no fun at all. I don’t blame them at all. I am poor now but I can handle it. I just want it to stop, the fatigue, the pain. Once my parents die I will get some opioids and end this.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      02/11/2019 (12:24 am)

      Your story is all too common. You might benefit from a second look at a tick borne illness. IV Rocephin does not work for several of the co-infections. There are oral antibiotics that are effective for other co-infections. You should also rule out other illnesses.

    • daniel
      09/10/2022 (4:59 pm)

      this is exactly my story i have so severe depression treatment resistant i tired all antidepressant on market and no works. Now i foud out i have late stage lyme after 6 years of suffering.. now im goiong to start treatment and i really hope that my depression will go fade… if i can ask did u find anything what helped?

  • Jeff
    07/23/2018 (5:46 pm)

    Dr. Cameron, it is likely I had Lyme for 35, or so years before it was found. Do you believe long term Lyme can cause damage, or changes in brain chemistry? If so, what treatments or remedies would you suggest looking at? I figure my profound fatigue is part brain chemistry, and part mitochondria (every cell in my body feels overtaxed much of the time). I went through weeks of antibiotics last year, but it made no difference. Thanks for your advocacy!

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      07/24/2018 (12:08 am)

      There are a lot of changes that take place during a tick borne illness. I have included science blogs addressing ophthalmology issues to better understand the problems my patients face. There are a growing number of professionals looking at tick borne issues including mitochondria. I cannot comment on whether there were any antibiotic treatment regimens that were overlooked e.g. Babesia without an evaluation.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      07/24/2018 (12:11 am)

      There are a growing number of professionals taking an interest in the changes that occur with tick borne illnesses. I cannot comment on whether there were any treatment regimens overlooked e.g. for Babesia, without an evaluation.

  • B Better
    11/25/2017 (12:19 pm)

    I was diagnosed with late stage lyme after 12 years of suffering. My general practitioner just told me he was informed that lyme wasn’t in our state! I live in Georgia. I am better, due to working with a lyme specialist and a neurologulist, that put me on 400 mg of CoQ10 and S.O.D.3, 3 times a day, as well as massive amounts of great probiotics. The coq10 and sod3 help rid the body of free radicals in the blood and has worked wonders. I still have issues, but it’s a good start. Depression for people with Lyme is real though.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      12/02/2017 (1:54 am)

      Lyme disease has increasingly reported in the Southern United States. You should consult a physician familiar with treatment for Lyme disease beyond supplements if you are still ill.

    • S Garner
      05/03/2018 (5:24 am)

      I am in Georgia as well. Physicians don’t know how to treat it nor us. Now I am out of money and rarely working. My life has radically changed…

      • Dr. Daniel Cameron
        05/03/2018 (2:08 pm)

        We need more doctor to take on the challenges of Lyme and tick borne illnesses in the South.

    • Laura
      03/16/2020 (3:54 pm)

      What were ur exact symptoms?
      I’m wondering if I need a. Neurologist as well.
      Definitely hitting my central nervous system and brain fog plus other tingling twitching sensations and very anxious feelings. Thank you.

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