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Lyme Disease May have Mental Health Consequences


In the United States, diseases spread by mosquito, flea and tick bites tripled from 2004 to 2016, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With this comes renewed public health messages urging preventive measures as we head into summer.

Lyme disease, which accounts for 82 percent of tickborne diseases, not only has potentially serious physical health consequences, but is also associated with mental health consequences. As with other infectious diseases, mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression, can accompany Lyme disease.

New research presented at the APA Annual Meeting in New York City looked at the prevalence of anxiety and depression in people with post-treatment Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria that is transmitted to people through the bite of infected ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a distinct ring-shaped skin rash. If it is not treated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. In most cases, it can be treated with oral antibiotics. Some people continue to have non-specific symptoms (like fatigue, pain, and joint and muscle aches) after treatment for Lyme disease, referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).

In the study, individuals with Lyme disease were categorized into two groups--those with definite Post-Treatment Lyme Symptoms (PTLS) and those with probable PTLS.

Approximately 43 percent of all participants had symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Among the definite PTLS group, 15 percent had moderate-severe depression alone, 9 percent had marked to severe anxiety alone, and 17 percent had both moderate-severe depression and marked-severe anxiety.

Among the probable PTLS group, 23 percent had moderate-severe depression alone, 22 percent people had marked-extreme anxiety alone, and 3 percent had both moderate-severe depression and marked-severe anxiety.

“While attention has previously been given to depression as a common component of post-treatment Lyme disease symptoms, little attention has been paid to concomitant anxiety,” the authors note. “Our study demonstrates a high rate of anxiety among these patients and highlights the role of anxiety as a significant contributor to mental functioning.”

Given that more than 40 percent of their sample had scores indicating depression and/or anxiety, the authors suggest the need to treat depressive and anxiety symptoms along with physical symptoms when there are lingering symptoms of Lyme disease.

Preventing Lyme Disease

Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease.

Use insect repellent
Wear covered clothing,
Conduct full-body tick checks
Remove ticks promptly


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