According to Dr. Richard Horowitz, "Lyme disease is a major cause of psychiatric symptoms. Psychiatric case reports, as reported by psychiatrist Dr Brian Fallon, have linked Lyme disease to paranoia, thought disorders, delusions with psychosis, schizophrenia, with or without visual, auditory or olfactory hallucinations, depression, panic attacks and anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, mood lability with violent outbursts, mania, personality changes, catatonia and dementia. Other psychiatric disorders in adults due to Lyme disease include atypical bipolar disorder, depersonalization/derealization, conversion disorders, somatization disorders, atypical psychoses, schizoaffective disorder and intermittent explosive disorders. In children and adolescents, Lyme disease can also mimic Specific or Pervasive Developmental Delays, Attention-Deficit Disorder (Inattentive subtype), oppositional defiant disorder and mood disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia, Tourette’s syndrome, and pseudo-psychotic disorders. The take home message: Lyme is the “great imitator”. Don’t exclude Lyme disease and associated infections as a possible underlying cause of psychiatric symptoms, and don’t assume that a positive response to an antibiotic like minocycline is not treating an underlying infection."
The Psychiatric Times also reported on tick borne diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders. It stated that Lyme disease can present itself in a multitude of manifestations, including psychiatric complaints. The article goes on to say that a patient who goes to a doctor with physical symptoms "...sees multiple specialists, each of whom restricts the examination to his area of expertise. Nothing is resolved, and the patient is frustrated that his symptoms cannot be explained. In view of the growing list of unexplained symptoms, including psychiatric symptoms, the patient is treated with tranquilizers and antidepressants with some benefit, but gradual decline persists."
When general medical explanations are exhausted "...the patient may be referred to a psychiatrist for 3 reasons: the unexplained medical symptoms give the appearance of a psychosomatic or somatoform condition; complex mental symptoms are thought to require psychiatric assessment; and a psychiatrist is thought to be needed to more effectively manage psychiatric treatments."
A lot of people can relate to the example above. How often do you go to a doctor and they send you to a specialist? If that person can't find anything wrong they send you to another, and so on. Then you become frustrated and depressed that no one can figure out what is wrong. Well what if it was Lyme disease or another inflammatory disease?
"When should we suspect Lyme disease as a potential etiological co-factor in psychiatric symptoms? Lyme disease is a multisystemic illness. If a patient presents with a symptom complex that comes and goes with good and bad days, with associated fevers, sweats and chills, fatigue, migratory joint and muscle pain, migratory neuralgias with tingling, numbness and burning sensations, a stiff neck and headache, memory and concentration problems, a sleep disorder and associated psychiatric symptoms (that may or may not be of recent onset), then we should suspect Lyme disease and associated co-infections."--www.psychologytoday.com
If you are having unexplained illness and/or psychiatric symptoms have a look at these articles and make sure you are armed with the ammunition you need to steer your doctor toward helping you find the right tests and treatments.
Can all psychiatric symptoms be explained away with a physical illness? No, but it's nice to have options. And when medications are not working, maybe looking for an alternative issue is a good idea.