Lyme Disease Community
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1692704 tn?1307215380

Lyme Disease and Depression

I would like to ask if anyone else experiences depression due to living with Lyme Disease and how you deal with it? I would like to say that my symptoms overwhelm me. I find myself unable to relate to "normal" functioning people anymore. For example, I just attended a family picnic and others played games which I am physically unable to do at this time. I then find myself depressed and then not wanting to be around people. My depression and illness also interferes with my marriage. I tried antidepressants and hate the side effects. I attend a support group which helps somewhat. Anyway, I came across the following information which I think describes how Lyme can cause depression so well...
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 (would be nice!). In contrast, multi-system diseases such as Lyme, depression, chronic Lyme disease can penetrate into mulitple 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. Source: www(dot)mentalhealthandillness(dot)come/Articles/LymeDepressionandSuicide
13 Responses
1692704 tn?1307215380
Forgot to  mention that I also see a psychotherapist and a psychiatist which is of limited assistance.
Avatar universal
Yeah, I'm the same ree.  My marriage has suffered tremendously.  My wife just does not understand the constant "lyme on the Brain", research, sleeplessness,.  We have not slept in same room for almost 2 years and have little to none body contact.  I would rather that happen than have her get ill, I love her too much.  But I don't think she understands.

  Therapists are worthless as far as I'm concerned.   I was told by one that this was all in my head and that I needed even MORE antidepressants.  A Pychiatrist wanted to give me 60mg of Cymbalta,daily, for the rest of my life not wanting to know what I found out.  I believe as long as you are not a patient anymore, they coud give a rats butt how you are doing.
Avatar universal
would lyme explain why antidepressants don't ever seem to work for me?  if i can ever manage to get past the side effects, which i am hyper-sensitive to, and find an antidepressant that works---it's good for a couple of months and then just poops out on me.

my husband is sickof me being in pain all the time and not functioning very well.
1692704 tn?1307215380
My therapist and psychiatrist both have limited to no knowledge of Lyme Disease. I just try to work on ways to cope with all the grief and loss caused by this disease.

As far as relationships, Lyme has caused much isolation for me and I use to have many friends and now only a few. I find most don't understand. I feel left behind in a sense. My husband is a very physically active person and in to sports and such and I can't do any of it. For me, the illness is an obstacle between us.

I don't complain much anymore about my symptoms because I feel that no one understands or will get tired of listening to me. Support groups are wonderful for this to try to connect with people who can relate. I also try to focus on other things, but it is difficult given the symptoms.

Thanks for listening and responding.
Avatar universal
your description of how lyme causess depression was really good.  it is overwhelming to deal with so many things going wrong with your body---and people start to look at you like a hypochondriac.  the only thing the article didn't mention is that fact that the lyme spirochetes can get into your brain and cause depression and anxiety and memory loss and foggy thinking---let alone trying to deal with the multiple symptoms it causes physically. (maybe that info was in thelink--but i didn't follow it---i just liked the part that you wrote.  i guess it is nice to have boards where people are willing to listen----since everyone else just wants us to shut up and be happy.   sometimes i feel like i have to let my husband know i am in pain or i think he will expect me to do moe than i can do---and then there are times when he tells me to slow down and not over-do it or i will pay for it later.    sometimes the pain is almost unbearable (especially in my knees) i feel like i have to say something because i hurt so bad and don't know what to do to get any relief.
1464587 tn?1307495205
Hey Ree,
I think I mentioned this in one of my previous posts but although I am struggling with extreme depression and anxiety from this condition as well and even a good deal more in my relationship which there has always been a lot but now its almost so unbearable I think I want to leave =(  at times I feel it is extremly difficult to know for sure whether its 100% of what I'm feeling is true in my heart and soul or if it is also being influenced by the anxiety of the illness........ if you are looking for a antidepressant from your doc I would reccomend wellbutrin..... also used to quit smoking, I can't use it anymore because it worsed my constipation problem but I found its the one and only antidepressant that worked only as boosting my mood for the better and no numb feelings at all.... I. Really wish I could take this still...... the docs told me the reason it might have worked for me and not others is because as for now it is the only antidepressant out there that works with only one chemical in the brain and not two.
If you would like to go natural I have found that olive leaf (I take pytho veggie caps by gaia herbs) is not only good for boosting the immune system for helping with lyme but is also gives you a sense of well being...... it almost feels like a calm and confindent sense of well being...... hope that helps =)
1692704 tn?1307215380
kevieb - Yes, I agree that it doesn't mention about Lyme getting in the brain. I only posted a very small section of the entire article, so perhaps it does make mention of it. I will have to check it out again. I hear you about unbearable pain. I am on the highest dose of Neurotin and it's not helping. I guess I have to try something else (sigh!)

BeanBandit - Lyme really takes a toll on relationships. We could do another segment just on Lyme and relationships. Thanks for the recommendations. I like the idea of natural, so perhaps I will give the olive leaf a try. Antidepressant drugs all seem to work opposite in me and I don't tolerate them well, but never tried Wellbutrin.
1464587 tn?1307495205
I was the same with antidepressants too....... til wellbutrin =) like I said it works with only one chemical instead of two =) and sadly it is the only one that works like that the pharmacist and doc say. It gave me a more happy upbeat happiness I guess ill say, and the olive leaf like I said just feels like a calm, confident well being..... both good things. But I'm like you, I'm all for natural =D
428506 tn?1296560999
I'm fortunate to have recovered significantly from my Lyme & co. such that I can do a lot more now than I could when at my worst with the illness.  However I still experience some fluctuations.  I only feel depressed on the days when I am the most sick.  Of course, when I was sick everyday, that got to be really rough.  For me, it was important on bad days to not allow myself to think too much about the future or the broad implications of my illness, nor was I allowed to make important decisions on particularly bad days.  I also stay away from sad movies, etc. when I'm down, and instead go for light-hearted, easy-to-follow shows/movies/books.  

I went through a long period of mourning for the old me and the loss of productivity and the loss of a normal life.  I do not feel that my life was ever in danger from my disease, but my way of life certainly was, and I recall the possibility of needing to "retire" at 30 looming in my mind.  It was an awful feeling to think that I would never again be a productive member of society.  The cognitive problems associated with my illness made me feel like a different person, and not a person I was keen on being.  It was very sad and emotionally challenging to endure.

Now that I'm "over the hump" in getting better, my emotional health has also improved greatly.  I still face extra challenges from my illness, but now instead of constantly and only feeling bad about lost productivity, I really savor the accomplishments I do achieve.  It's like everything I do succeed at now means even more to me than it could have were I never sick.  I'm not sure if that makes sense or not.  

I still struggle a good deal with being sick, and often feel like I'm fighting with one hand tied behind my back.  I feel jealous of healthy co-workers and ashamed of my secret ailment, which gives me the blues from time to time.  But I think seeing how much better I feel (mentally/physically) now gives me enough optimism to get through the lows.

For sure, when we get sick, our bodies drag our minds along and it's good to be aware of the powerful emotional impact that can have on our lives.  
1692704 tn?1307215380
I find myself jealous of healthy individuals also. I think that is a normal emotion given the circumstances. I also find myself mourning the old me very much. I have a Master's Degree and I can't work. It is extremely difficult because I was quite an achiever.
My depression is directly related to how sick I feel as well. I have not recovered from my illness yet and feel sick everyday and wonder if I will ever get better. It's reassuring to know that you and others here have significantly recovered  and can lead a productive life again.
Thanks for the insight!
Avatar universal

I noticed that depression and anxiety is a common occurrence with chronic lyme. Depression and anxiety can cause the exact same symptoms as Lyme. Undoubtedly, there are people that think they have chronic Lyme that suffer only from depression and/or anxiety. It is hard to tell whether or not they really suffer from chronic Lyme.

As with all antidepressants, side effects are wide ranging. One has to be dedicated to taking antidepressants. I have read that side effects start to diminish the longer you take them. Moreover, not all antidepressants work the same for all people. One may have to try many different ones before finding one that works. Lexapro is one that seems to work well with people.
428506 tn?1296560999
I think that depression and anxiety go hand in hand with many chronic illness, not just Lyme disease.  (Just browse other medical community forums on MedHelp, you'll quickly see many examples.)  Any life-changing illness can have an emotional fallout.

Sure, there can certainly be cases of people with mental illness who mistakenly think that they have Lyme disease, but the opposite is also possible.  And certainly it takes dedication to treat either one, or both, as necessary.
Avatar universal
Practitioners not familiar with Lyme disease may mistake depression as the underlying problem rather than a result of the bacterial infection that Lyme disease is.  There is lots of medical literature out there on this point.  For example, below is a portion of a 1992 article posted at lymenet, co-authored by a number of  distinguished and experienced physicians and scientists.

Yes, the article is 19 years old and still stands, so this is not new information.  In fact, the statements made in this article have continued to be supported over the two intervening decades of research.  

This article was written for a neuropsychiatric medical journal, so it focusses on psychiatric issues, but that doesn't mean everyone who has Lyme needs a psychiatrist -- what it means is:  when a bacterial infection has neurological and resulting psychiatric symptoms, treat the underlying disease and the symptoms resolve.  

The Neuropsychiatric Manifestations of Lyme Borreliosis

Brian A. Fallon, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia
University, and Division of Therapeutics, New York State Psychiatric Institute,
New York, New York.,

Jenifer A. Nields, M.D.,
Joseph J. Burrascano, M.D.
Southampton Hospital,
Southampton, New York.,

Kenneth Liegner, M.D.
Northern Westchester Hospital Center,
Mt. Kisco, New York.

Donato DelBene, B.A.
Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia
University, and Division of Therapeutics, New York State Psychiatric Institute,
New York, New York.,

Michael R. Liebowitz, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia
University, and Division of Theraputics, New York State Psychiatric Institute,
New York, New York

Reprinted from: Psychiatric Quarterly, Vol63, No 1, Spring 1992

"Lyme borreliosis (Lyme disease), a tick-borne spirochetal illness, has multi-systemic involvement and is rapidly increasing in certain areas of the United States. Although its neurologic manifestations are becoming increasingly well recognized, its psychiatric presentations are not well known. The first section of this paper will provide an overview of Lyme borreliosis and a review of the relevant neuropsychiatric literature. The second section will provide clinical descriptions of some common neuropsychiatric symptoms as well as a discussion of the problems typically faced by patients with this illness. Guidelines to assist the clinician in working with these patients will be presented.

"In one U.S. study of 27 patients with late neuroborreliosis, 33% were depressed based on their scores on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (2). 89% of these 27 patients also had evidence of a mild encephalopathy, characterized by memory loss (81%), excessive daytime sleepiness (30%), extreme irritability (26%), and word finding difficulties (19%). Controlled studies indicate significantly more depression among patients with late Lyme borreliosis than among normal controls (20) and other chronically ill patients (39).

"Confounding accurate diagnosis is the fact that many of the prominent symptoms of Lyme disease share features with depressive illness, including irritability, fatigue, emotional lability, poor concentration, memory problems, and impaired sleep (2). Ruling out Lyme disease as a cause of these depressive symptoms can be difficult because currently available serological tests are inadequate, a third of all patients do not recall a rash or tick bite, and a long quiescent period may precede the late symptoms. Even when the diagnosis of Lyme disease is clear, optimal treatment of these depressive symptoms is uncertain because in many patients the symptoms persist even after the standard 3 week course of antibiotics. Psychiatrists currently have no guidelines on how to treat these patients. While some doctors feel that depressive symptoms in the context of Lyme disease are evidence of continued disseminated infection, others believe that these represent a secondary emotional response to having a serious illness. Appropriate treatment if the former is true would consist of further antibiotics, while if the latter is true psychotherapy and/or antidepressant therapy would be the treatment of choice. Delayed additional antibiotic treatment due to an incorrect assessment of the disease process may enable an acute illness to develop into a chronic one (2). ...

"In conclusion, further systematic study is clearly needed to better understand the prevalence and pathophysiology of psychiatric problems among patients with Lyme borreliosis and to identify optimal treatment. A critical review of the literature indicates that disturbances of mood, memory, and sleep are prominent features of this illness. Whether borrelia burgdorferi also causes psychotic disorders and eating disorders remains an open question. Neurosyphilis, also caused by a spirochete, is known to be associated with memory problems, depression, mania, psychosis, and personality changes, such as irritability, emotional lability, and apathy (40). Given the remarkable similarities between syphilis and Lyme borreliosis, it is possible that the full range of psychiatric symptoms seen in neurosyphilis may also soon be recognized as features of Lyme borreliosis. ..."
And in fact, these are recognized symptoms and results of Lyme disease.  Don't be disheartened by this article -- instead, know that there are MDs who understand Lyme and won't tell you to just get over yourself.  I went through 20 docs before I got diagnosed and treated for Lyme and babesiosis, so been there, done that.

Bottom line:  if you have Lyme, you have a bacterial infection that can be treated, and the symptoms -- including depression caused by Lyme -- resolve when the infection is treated.  Can you have depression independent of Lyme?  Sure, but rather than assume that's the case, getting treatment seems a reasonable course of action.  Hang in there, everybody.  
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