Can Lyme Disease Cause Depression?
Erin was just 9 years old, but she had already been plagued by depression and other issues for years. She had taken antidepressants and other medications, but they hadn’t helped her. In fact, they made her worse. When Erin started talking about suicide, her parents knew they had to do more for their daughter. They took her for a brain imaging test called SPECT that looks at activity and blood flow in the brain.
Erin’s brain scan did not look healthy. It showed notable overactivity, which can be an indicator of inflammation. Blood tests and lab work revealed that the young girl had Lyme disease as well as other issues. Antidepressants would never heal the underlying infection.
Lyme Disease in the Brain
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick. Untreated, Lyme disease and other infections can interfere with the immune system and lead to inflammation. They can also cause changes in the brain that impact moods, learning, and more.
On SPECT brain scans, infectious diseases like Lyme disease can make the brain look like it has been exposed to toxins. A toxic appearance is a sign of a troubled brain.
The Lyme-Mental Health Link
Many people are surprised to learn that infectious diseases, including Lyme disease, are a major contributor to mental illnesses and cognitive issues. Research shows that children who have had an infectious disease are significantly more likely to have mental health problems as they grow up. In a study that followed over 3.5 million people, scientists found a 62% increase in the risk for mood disorders if a person had been hospitalized for any type of infection.
Why Don’t Most Doctors Test for Lyme?
Unfortunately, few healthcare professionals are aware of the connection between infections like Lyme disease and psychiatric problems like depression. If you go to your doctor and tell them you have symptoms of depression, you’re likely to walk out of the appointment with a prescription for antidepressants. But it is unlikely that they will do testing for infectious diseases or brain imaging. Because of this, Lyme disease often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, allowing the immune system disruption, systemic inflammation, and brain changes to worsen.
This needs to change.
Getting a comprehensive evaluation that includes brain imaging and lab screening tests helps provide a more accurate diagnosis, which is key for zeroing in on the proper treatment. As more people in the medical community become aware of the problem, infectious disease psychiatry is likely to emerge within the next 30 years as a major discipline of psychiatry.
Targeting the Infection to Help Treat the Depression
When it is caught early, Lyme disease can usually be treated effectively with antibiotics. When it has been present in your system for months or years and is accompanied by depression or other psychiatric or cognitive problems, additional treatments may be necessary. A comprehensive treatment program worked for 9-year-old Erin, who went from having depression and suicidal thoughts to experiencing a remarkable turnaround.
At Amen Clinics we have treated hundreds of patients with treatment-resistant psychiatric symptoms like depression who tested positive for Lyme disease. When their treatment plan included targeted solutions for the infection, they finally got the help they needed. If you or a loved one has symptoms of depression that aren’t responding to treatment, speak to a specialist about getting a full brain-body evaluation to discover if infection like Lyme disease might be the root cause. For more information, call 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.