Lyme disease occurs when a black-legged tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria embeds itself under your skin in search of blood. While feeding, it transmits the bacteria to your bloodstream, which immediately multiply and spread throughout the body. The longer Lyme disease goes undetected, the more debilitating your symptoms may become.
Unfortunately, Lyme disease is one of the most misdiagnosed diseases. Inaccurate testing methods and a lack of knowledge among general practitioners are why many Americans struggle with chronic symptoms. For many, mental health symptoms are more devastating than physical symptoms.
Lyme disease is both an indirect and direct contributor to mental illness. Many Lyme disease symptoms impair mental health, and chronic symptoms lead to separate mental health disorders. Below are examples of how Lyme disease affects mental illness.
Lyme Disease and the Central Nervous System
When left untreated, Lyme bacteria enter the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. The central nervous system is responsible for how we think and feel and sending messages from the brain to the rest of the body. As Lyme bacteria begin disrupting regular functioning, many mental health symptoms.
Mental health symptoms that result from damage to the central nervous system include the following:
- Memory loss
- Brain fog
- Personality changes
- Eating disorders
- Sleep disturbances
- Suicidal ideations
Chronic Lyme Disease and Mental Health
Neuropsychiatric symptoms of chronic Lyme disease include mood disorders, psychosis, and schizophrenia. Lyme disease creates inflammatory responses that affect mental health, such as:
- Reducing serotonin levels
- Increasing oxidative stress
- Increasing glutamate to a toxic level
- Dysregulating emotions
- Producing more inflammatory cytokines
- Releasing cortisol in response to stress
- Decreasing effectiveness of the immune system
Treatment for Lyme disease exists and can reduce the negative impact on your mental health. Finding a Lyme-literate doctor specializing in infectious diseases is critical to successful treatment.
The Stress of Getting an Accurate Diagnosis
The best-case scenario for diagnosing Lyme disease is when you develop and find a bullseye rash on your body. This is a sure sign of a bacterial infection. Your doctor will prescribe a round of strong antibiotics; for most, Lyme disease will be eliminated.
The truth is, not everyone develops a bullseye rash. Also, some rashes go unseen when they appear on body parts that aren’t easily accessible.
Without confirmation of the rash, you will seek treatment for symptoms that may seem to appear suddenly and without cause. Most general practitioners do not investigate the root sources of your symptoms. Instead, they treat the symptoms to alleviate physical or mental discomfort.
For example, if you are experiencing depression or anxiety, a doctor will likely prescribe antidepressant medication and diagnose you with a mental illness. They may have several reasons to support their diagnosis, including life stressors, genetics, and chemical imbalances in the brain.
For a while, your depression or anxiety may subside, but without treating the actual source, symptoms will return and progress.
Inaccurate Testing Methods
Even if you find a general practitioner who tests for Lyme disease, you still may be misdiagnosed due to faulty ELISA and Western Blot tests. Reports state these tests are only accurate about 65% of the time because they only test for Lyme disease antibodies. Because Lyme bacteria become inactive or dormant, they can go undetected by tests.
Over time, your mental health symptoms worsen, and to make it worse, you start to feel confused and unsure of how well you know your own body. You’re made to feel as if your symptoms are psychosomatic or all in your mind.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Lyme disease symptoms are very real.
Other Mental Health Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Researchers conducted a study of over 7 million patients without mental illness before contracting Lyme disease. Results showed that 42% had a higher rate of depression and bipolar and 75% higher death by suicide than those without Lyme disease.
In other reports, more generalized mental health symptoms appear, such as:
- Panic attacks
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure
- Decreased libido
- Easily frustrated
- Anger outbursts
- Social anxiety
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity
Treatment for Lyme Disease and Mental Illness
Lyme-literate specialists understand the importance of working with Lyme-literate psychiatrists and psychologists to provide a comprehensive treatment plan addressing physical and mental health problems.
Lyme-literate doctors have advanced equipment in their clinics that go beyond what antibiotics offer. Examples of Lyme disease treatments include the following:
- Oxidative medicine uses ozone therapies to reduce chemical toxicity.
- Antioxidant therapies eliminate oxidative stress and enhance glutathione levels. A person with low glutathione is more likely to develop psychiatric ailments.
- Immune modulation therapies assist the immune system in functioning better. Dendritic cell vaccines, autonosodes, and intravenous immunoglobulin treatments are examples.
- Anti-viral and anti-parasitic protocols aid in treating co-existing diseases and infections with mental health implications. Conditions like Epstein Barr and coinfections such as Bartonella must be treated simultaneously to eliminate negative symptoms effectively.
- IV therapies allow the quickest absorption of essential antibiotics, vitamins, and nutrients into your bloodstream.
- Detox therapies and lifestyle changes are necessary to maintain the benefits of previous treatments.
How to Find the Right Doctor
If you are not currently satisfied with the treatment you are receiving, it’s time to search for a new doctor. Before you search, commit to finding the best doctor, not the nearest or least expensive. Going to the wrong doctor for months will cost you more money than seeing the right doctor once or twice.
Research doctors through associations such as the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.
Don’t be afraid to search outside the United States. Combine a well-needed vacation with a consultation at a Lyme-literate clinic. Utilize telehealth services to learn more about the latest and most innovative treatments for Lyme disease.
There is help beyond the typical antibiotic therapies offered by general practitioners. You deserve to know more about how to become free of Lyme disease and its effect on your mental health.