350 – LD, Depression & Suicide
Lyme, Depression, and Suicide
By Robert C. Bransfield, MD
In the late 1970’s, I treated a depressed patient who appeared to have more than just depression. Her weight increased from 120 to 360 pounds, she was suicidal, had papilledema, arthritis, cognitive impairments, and anxiety. This patient became disabled, went bankrupt, and had marital problems. Like many whose symptoms could not be explained, she was referred to a psychiatrist. However, I was never comfortable labeling her condition as just another depression. At the time, I did not consider her illness could be connected to other diagnostic entities, such as neuroborreliosis, erythema migrans disease, erythema chronicum migrans, Bannwoth’s syndrome, Garin-Bujadoux syndrome, Montauk knee, or an arthritis outbreak in Connecticut With time, the connection between Borrelia burgdorferi infections and mental illnesses such as depression became increasingly
In my database, depression is the most common psychiatric syndrome associated with late stage Lyme disease. Although depression is common in any chronic illness, it is more prevalent with Lyme patients than in most other chronic illnesses. There appears to be multiple causes, including a number of psychological and physical factors.
From a psychological standpoint, many Lyme patients are psychologically overwhelmed by the large multitude of symptoms associated with this disease. Most medical conditions primarily affect only one part of the body, or only one organ system. As a result, patients singularly afflicted can do activities which allow them to take a vacation from their disease. In contrast, multi-system diseases such as Lyme, depression, chronic Lyme disease can penetrate into multiple aspects of a person’s life. It is difficult to escape for periodic recovery. In many cases, this results in a vicious cycle of disappointment, grief; chronic stress, and demoralization.
It should be noted that depression is not only caused by psychological factors. Physical dysfunction can directly cause depression. Endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, which cause depression, are sometimes associated with Lyme disease and further strengthen the link between Lyme disease and depression.