What Is Lyme Disease?
Each year almost 500,000 people are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease in the United States. Lyme disease, also known as Lyme Borealis, is caused by deer ticks who bite humans and transmit this bacteria in the process. The numbers and range of this disease have grown dramatically in the past decade. Most cases can be cured with a 2-to-4-week treatment course of oral antibiotics. However, this disease sometimes goes undetected for months or years and leads to an array of physical, neurological, and psychological symptoms. For reasons unclear, 10% to 20% of people who contract this disease report ongoing or intermittent symptoms after completing antibiotic treatment. These unfortunate patients suffer with symptoms of pain, fatigue, and thinking difficulties that can last for months or years after treatment.
Mental Health Problems from Lyme Disease
The public has progressed beyond viewing Lyme disease as a small illness that merely causes a rash. This illness can lead to severe cardiac, rheumatologic, and neurologic problems for its victims. But, even beyond this, Lyme disease can cause severe mental health problems as well. This disease is often misdiagnosed and can immediately lead to depression in patients who are perplexed by overpowering symptoms of fatigue and little explanation from healthcare providers who may not suspect this bacterium because there was no evidence of a rash. In some cases, people will be bit by small nymph ticks and not even realize that this chain of events has transpired. The mental health problems resulting from Lyme disease, in concert with the physical symptoms, will often greatly reduce a person’s quality-of-life, especially if left untreated.
According to the APA who cited a recent study from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, patients who received the hospital diagnosis of Lyme disease have a 28% higher rate of mental disorders and were twice as likely to have attempted suicide post infection than individuals without a Lyme diagnosis. Other patients have reported panic attacks, “brain fog,” and other cognitive difficulties that can impair a person’s concentration and difficulties with reading. Depression is also common in severe Lyme disease cases due to the array of physical, neurologic, and rheumatologic symptoms. As a clinician, I have seen patients suffer tremendous mental health difficulties and personality changes related to Lyme disease. In addition to antibiotic treatments, patients definitely need understanding from their doctors, family support, and in some cases, counseling to assist with these mental health aspects.
Tips on How to Prevent Ticks and Lyme Disease
Like many things in life, preventative measures are preferable to fighting the Lyme bacteria once it’s entered your body. In your outdoor activities, especially during the most susceptible season which is May and June, there are some precautions that can be taken to avoid this nasty bug.
A risk of contracting Lyme Disease has become a widespread reality to many who enjoy nature. Taking the above precautions can help in braving the outdoors with more peace of mind. Hopefully, the prevention, accurate diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme Disease will continue to progress so that many can continue to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of exploring our outdoor environments without concern about these little bugs.