Psychiatric Lyme Disease
Lyme disease, if left untreated, can affect every system of the body, including the nervous system. Psychiatric Lyme Disease, also known as Lyme Neuroborreliosis, can present as a wide range of psychiatric symptoms and is thought to occur in 15 to 40% of late-stage Lyme disease cases in the UK.
In one study, a third of psychiatric patients showed signs of a past infection of Lyme disease. Greater awareness of Psychiatric Lyme Disease is essential as the use of antibiotics can reverse or lessen even severe neuropsychiatric symptoms when used in combination with the indicated psychiatric treatments.
What are the symptoms of Psychiatric Lyme Disease?
Most sufferers complain of cognitive difficulties, such as attention deficit, slow processing, and visual and spatial difficulties, commonly described as ‘brain fog’. Other symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include the following:
- memory loss
- anxiety and depression
- panic attacks
- mood swings
- sleep disorders
- the development of behavioural issues such as OCD
How is Psychiatric Lyme Disease diagnosed?
Lyme disease can be challenging to diagnose and treat as often sufferers are not even aware that they’ve been infected by a tick bite in the first instance. Not all people experience early onset symptoms such as flu-like aches and pains or a bull’s eye rash.
Screening and tests are also challenging as a negative result does not always prove that you don’t have Lyme disease.
A psychiatrist or mental health professional should suspect a tick-borne disease if the following symptoms present:
- muscle pains, cramping and twitching
- joint pains and swelling
- sleep disorders
- headaches or migraines
- mood and cognitive disorders
Late-stage Psychiatric Lyme Disease can often mimic more serious health disorders:
- nerve disorders like Bell’s Palsy, characterised by numbness and shooting or stabbing pains
- progressive dementias
- seizure disorders
- autoimmune conditions
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and disorders of the central nervous system
- disorders that present with similar symptoms to motor neurone disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome or multiple sclerosis
Children that have started to suffer from behavioural changes, learning disabilities or GI complaints may be suffering from Lyme disease.
How do you treat Psychiatric Lyme Disease?
Alongside the indicated psychiatric therapy, the accepted treatment for Psychiatric Lyme Disease is a course of antibiotics, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin. Commonly, a GP will prescribe between a two to four week-long course, but our advice is a longer course lasting between six to 12 weeks and its essential to finish the course – even if you start feeling better – to ensure the Lyme bacteria is killed. Another option, if symptoms are very severe, is intravenous antibiotics.
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