Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
May is Lyme disease Awareness month worldwide. Although many may know this disease for its myriad of physical symptoms, its impact on mental health is less talked about. Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through tick bites, especially by deer and black ticks. Physical symptoms often include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, insomnia, and skin rash. There are several causes that can contribute to mental health problems in those infected with Lyme disease. First, symptoms of mental illness can result from the stress that often accompanies the onslaught of physical symptoms associated with Lyme disease, some of which can last a long time. Also, the treatment for Lyme disease can be challenging as it is expensive, sometimes painful, and can be long-term. These two things can leave those with Lyme disease feeling chronically anxious and dysphoric (Heckman, 2019). Second, Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed as psychosomatic, which can be invalidating to the infected individual (Hammond, 2019). Third, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can eventually target the brain when left untreated. This leads to symptoms such as problems with eye movement, brain inflammation, extreme mood swings, obsessive thoughts, decline in cognitive processing abilities, memory problems, and impulsivity (Trunzo, 2019).
Due to the significant and sometimes long-term implications of Lyme disease, it is important to continue spreading the word about its physical and mental symptoms. Especially as the weather becomes nicer and more people venture into the more remote areas ticks often call home in an effort to get some fresh outdoor air while still maintaining social distance.
Hammond, C. (2019, Aug. 8). The unfortunate connection between Lyme disease and mental illness. PsychCentral. https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2019/07/the-unfortunate-connection-between-lyme-disease-and-mental-illness/
Heckman, K. (2019, May 10). Lyme disease is causing a mental health crisis: Here’s what to do. Global Lyme Alliance. https://globallymealliance.org/lyme-disease-causing-mental-health-crisis-heres/
Trunzo, J. (2019, June 8). The psychological implications of Lyme disease: Are your symptoms because you have Lyme, or are they caused by Lyme itself? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/new-approaches-health/201906/the-psychological-implications-lyme-disease