The Lyme Tree’s educational resources are to be used as background information to help you better understand the connection between tick borne pathogens and neurocognitive illness.
Lyme disease is a spirochetal infection spread to humans primarily through the bite of an infected tick. Lyme disease is prevalent in US, with over 329,000 annual cases (exceeding AIDS and breast cancer combined) and endemic in the northeast/mid-atlantic, upper mid-west and northern California. Lyme disease is rapidly growing worldwide, including Europe and Asia, and has been reported in every US state.
Unfortunately, diagnostic testing for Lyme disease is often inaccurate and unreliable, and the later the illness is diagnosed the more likely a patient is to suffer from chronic debilitating symptoms which can become neurologic and difficult to treat.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease can include a rash, stiff neck, fever, flu-like symptoms, stiffness in joints, or severe headache. Later stages of Lyme disease can include cardiac manifestations, numbness/tingling, slurred speech, issues with memory, attention, processing speed, visuospatial and other cognitive deficits, mood disturbances, anxiety, depression, and more.
There are many controversies regarding Lyme disease, including means of transmission, testing, treatment, whether the bacteria can persist, whether ongoing disease processes are triggered with or without persistent infection, role of co- and opportunistic infections and genetic susceptibility, lack of societal or institutional support or awareness for the disease, and inadequate insurance coverage. The Lyme Tree acknowledges that these complexities and controversies all contribute to the challenges facing those with Lyme disease. Since mental health issues can be both biological and emotional for Lyme disease patients, what is NOT CONTROVERSIAL is that patients NEED IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT NOW regardless of how these controversies evolve over time.
TICK BORNE ILLNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH
The following are articles in the media or well-established news sites that connect mental illness or brain function to tick borne infection. In addition to articles about Lyme disease we’ve included other tick borne disease and opportunistic infections that might commonly affect the mental health of individuals.
- Lyme Disease and the Brain with Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Bransfield– (Dr. Bransfield, 2016)
- What Psychologists Need to Know about Lyme Disease – (Marzillier, 2009)
- The Psychological Affects of Lyme Disease – (IGeneX Inc., 2004)
- Are My Anxiety and Depression Due to Lyme Disease? – (Horowitz, 2013)
GENERAL ARTICLES ABOUT INFECTIONS AND MENTAL HEALTH
More research has been surfacing linking various infections and microbes to mental health and other illnesses that impact the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and ALS. Here are some articles that explain more about the gut/brain connection and how mental health can be impacted by infections or inflammation.
- A Traumatic Experience Can Shift Your Microbiome – NYMAG, 2017
- Harvard Neuroscience links Vagus Nerve to Chronic Fatigue Healing Histamine Blogpost 2017
Despite research for Lyme disease being significantly underfunded compared with other illnesses there is a growing body of peer-reviewed research that demonstrate the link between tick borne illness and mental health issues. It is important for patients, family, health providers, and educators to know there are biologic underpinnings as well as emotional components to Lyme disease induced neuropsychiatric impairments. Co-infections from a tick-bite can also contribute to a patient’s neuropsychiatric illness.
- Symptoms and Signs of Lyme Disease (Columbia University Medical Center)
- The Neuropsychiatric Manifestations of Lyme Borreliosis (Fallon BA, 1992)
- Psychiatric Manifestations of Lyme Borreliosis (Fallon BA, 1993)
- The Neuropsychiatric Assessment of Lyme Disease (Dr. Bransfield)
- Role of Psychiatric Comorbidity in Chronic Lyme Disease (Lyme PA)
- Successful Treatment of Lyme Encephalopathy with Intravenous Ceftriaxone (The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 1999)
(Lahey Clinic Medical Center, 2009)
- Suicide and Lyme and Associates Diseases (Dr. Bransfield, 2017)
- Severity of chronic Lyme disease as compared to other chronic conditions: a quality of life survey ( (2014)
- Brain Inflammation Tied to Suicidal Thoughts (PsychCentral, 2017)
- Lyme Disease and Mental Illness Jane Marke, MD, at the Centeral Mass Lyme Foundation Conference (2017)
- The Role of the Mental Health Professional in Tick-Borne Diseases: Implications for DIagnosis and Treatement – Sheila Statlender, PhD (2011)
- The Role of the Mental Health Professional in Tick-Borne Diseases: Implications for DIagnosis and Treatement – Judith G. Leventhal, PhD (2011)
The following books and websites are resources that have helped Lyme patients better understand their illness.
Lyme Brain: The Impact of Lyme Disease on Your Brain, and How to Reclaim Your Smarts! by Nicola McFadzean Ducharme. Foreword by Robert Bransfield, MD
When Your Child Has Lyme Disease- A Parent’s Survival Guide, by Sandra K. Berenbaum, LCSw, BCD, and Dorothy Kupcha Leland
Gone in a Heartbeat- A Physician’s Search for True Healing, by Neil Spector, MD
Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy and Almost Killed Me, by Ally Hilfiger
Suffering the Silence- Chronic Lyme Disease in an Age of Denial, by Allie Cashel
Why Can’t I Get Better?- Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Illness, by Richard I Horowitz, MD
Cure Unknown- Inside the Lyme Epidemic, by Pamela Weintraub
Out of the Woods- Healing from Lyme Disease for Body, Mind, and Spirit, by Katina I Makris
Autoimmune Illness and Lyme Disease Recovery Guide: Mending the Body, Mind, and Spirit, by Katina I Makris