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"

  • Jane
    06/20/2021 (8:30 am)

    I was diagnosed a week and a half ago with lyme after being sick with a massive headache, fever, chills, and body aches. The antibiotics made the fever go away within a couple days. I developed the lyme facial palsy 5 days into taking doxycycline last Sunday and Friday I started taking prednisone for the facial palsy. That has helped with the residual headache.

    I’m worried about the depression which is worse than it’s ever been in my adult life. I’ve had a lot of major stressors as well which is definitely contributing. I’m considering antidepressants after the antibiotics are finished if the depression persists at this level. Basically, I haven’t felt any positive emotions in 3 months.

    Have you found antidepressants to be helpful in balancing out neurotransmitters after a lyme infection? I’m considering looking for a lyme specialist as well if the brain fog persists after the antibiotics.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      06/20/2021 (9:29 am)

      I find that Lyme disease can exacerbate an underlying illness including a mood disorder in my patients. I also have seen that medications for mood are not as effective when my patients have Lyme disease. I advise my patients to work with a doctor to evaluate the best treatment. I encourage my patients to see an expert in Lyme disease to coordinate care.

  • Heather
    12/04/2020 (3:22 pm)

    I was diagnosed with Lyme 3 weeks ago after blood test to rule out lymes for several tick bits back in august. Doctor put me on 3 weeks doxy but also gave me a flu shot sane time. I have had major brain fog and fatigue since. I still have 4 more days on doxy but my brain fog is giving me extreme anxiety and I haven’t left the house. Do you the the flu shot enhanced my lymes and will the brain fog go away and what is my next step. Thank you.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      12/05/2020 (6:44 am)

      I have patients who have the same problems without the flu shot. I typically try a different antibiotic if my patient remains ill and I can’t find another answer.

  • Nanja L Galindo
    06/02/2020 (2:35 pm)

    I have an HMO and Have been complaining of my symptoms of chronic fatigue, crippling pain, inability to concentrate, anxiety and at times poor emotional control since 2002. All the doctor offered were antidepressants. Nothing worked and I began to notice that once they took my medical history and saw that I was an antidepressant, & They just wrote my symptoms off as if i was just crazy. They told me I need more psychiatric medication in conjunction None of them worked— Because I believed them I took them, After that i was just labeled crazy …. I had no credibility… Finally when I threw them all away, I started to fell better. I sought a second opinion —–Turns out I have Lyme disease.

    • Destiney Boldizar
      03/18/2021 (9:33 am)

      I am right there with you. Have been through the same experience. Labeled a crazy hypochondriac. I had a mini stroke at 34 and a friend insisted I seek an LLMD. Found out I’m diagnosed 22 years late.

    • Kristina
      08/07/2021 (1:33 pm)

      Thank you. This is exactly what is going on with me. I saw a test for lyme on the internet and am tempted to buy it. I’m afraid though that this to will come back negative. I have been having symptoms since 2017. All they do is put me on antipsycotics (spelling?) And anti depressants. Still have the symptoms…

      • Dr. Daniel Cameron
        08/08/2021 (8:25 am)

        I am sorry to hear you are having problems. I also have concerns with Lyme disease tests available over the internet. I have had depressed or anxious patients who have been later diagnosed with Lyme disease.

  • Gill mahoney
    04/06/2020 (1:01 pm)

    I have been ill a year and half starting with what felt like flu, but it didnt go away, i am so weak and tired get virtigo, vague nausea feel ill but most of all very severe depression and anxiety and panics all of which I keep under control with 10mg opiate which is the only thing that helps depagos. I am 80% bedridden and have poor concentration and brain fog and a body temperature of 34 d at best. Hardly a day goes by without me wishing I was dead. We lost our home in a fire and in temperary accommodation but once we are settled somewhere I am going to take disulfiram which I have heard cures it. I had doxicycline five weeks with 50% physical imprvement and severe herx. No antidepressant has an effect. What do you think of disulfiram?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      04/07/2020 (6:50 pm)

      I have treated longer or changed to another antibiotic in patients with similar findings before considering disulfiram.

    • Tina
      08/10/2021 (11:44 am)

      Just want to say I am sorry for your struggles posted last year from Lyme. I hope time has brought some healing for you as I hope for us all who are fighting the symptoms. Let us know if you can how you are doing please.

  • Alex
    02/10/2020 (6:46 pm)

    I had Lymes disease for 3 years undiagnosed when I was only 8 years old. I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal to feel so tired and aching until my family started to notice and I had two rounds of antibiotics. I was always told to keep in mind that I had Lymes disease because it never really leaves. Years later I am almost twenty years old and have suffered from anxiety and depression. I also feel aches every so often that I used to think were growing pains but I’m definitely done growing. I’ve felt slight brain fog before and difficulty remembering words. I wonder if this is linked to Lymes disease and if somehow might still have symptoms. Is this normal?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      02/10/2020 (7:36 pm)

      Your story is all too common. You should consider being evaluated by a doctor experienced in treating Lyme disease.

1 2 3 4

Join the Lyme Conversation
(Note: comments are moderated. You will see your comment after it has been reviewed.)

Some html is OK