It’s likely that I’ve had Chronic Lyme disease most of my adult life. Thankfully I’ve been diagnosed and I have a great doctor who is willing to keep up on my treatment and work with me to be able to live with low symptoms. But like other long-term diseases, there are days when the disease makes a showing and you have to take a step back from the rest of your day and pay attention to your body and needs.
I can tell when I am starting to flare up, my body just plain hurts, I feel just off, and sometimes it’s like having the flu only without the snot and coughs. Then it’s time to go back on treatment with high doses of antibiotics, rest, and trying to get through the detox that makes me feel worse and even a bit crazy.
I know that I can be forgetful, misplace words and insert new ones, and I am terrible with names and faces. But there are sometimes other moments where I just feel like I just am not right. I have to look carefully at my actions and thoughts all the time. And I found an interesting article relating Chronic Lyme to some interesting psychological issues.
“A recent European study shows that psychiatric in-patients are nearly twice as likely as the average population to test positive for Lyme, and the National Institutes of Health are currently sponsoring a major study of neuropsychiatric Lyme disease in an effort to illuminate specific changes in the brain”
How sad that there might have been so many people put into mental hospitals with issues that could have been treated with antibiotics. But what sort of mental issues? According to Debra Solomon, MD, a psychiatrist who practices in North Kingston, RI.
“How can a physician tell the difference between true mental illness and symptoms linked to Lyme disease? With Lyme disease, a patient’s psychiatric symptoms don’t quite fit the textbook definition. There is usually no previous history of psychiatric illness. Symptoms often come in cycles. Patients usually do not respond well to psychiatric medication. And they often describe their problems in very physical terms.
Lyme patients often say, “There’s a wall in my brain and I can’t seem to move my thoughts from the back to the front.” “This arises from encephalopathy, an inflammation in the brain that affects cognitive function,” Solomon explains.
Symptoms are said to worsen as the Lyme bacteria grow active and begin to reproduce, which is what I call a flare up. It’s usually when I know to go see my doctor for treatment. But mentally it’s hard to tell what’s just a mood change and what’s a flare up. So how does having Lyme disease affect how I deal with other people? Dr. Virginia Sherr a psychiatrist in PA has this to say:
“My patients come in to talk about their marital problems and are surprised to learn that they are linked to an organic illness,” Ninety percent of Sherr’s patients test positive for Lyme disease. She then has the job of describing to them just how this condition can affect the mind and the emotions.
Lyme disease can cause increasing irritability and dramatic flares of anger, says Sherr. “Suddenly you hear bone-cutting verbal assaults from people who are usually more measured and benign. They may have been harboring some small grievance for years, then that hot spot comes to life and they spew out all this venom. Such outbursts cause lasting wounds.”
Lyme is a tough disease to have and even tougher to diagnose. There has to be so many people living with this that have just no idea of what’s happening to them and have lost so much due to its effects on them. From loss of jobs, loss of health, and even the loss of support in their families and friends, these people just see so much hardship without reason. It’s no wonder that depression is a big problem among Lyme Disease patients.
Robert Bransfield, MD, a psychiatrist in Red Bank, New Jersey even relates the illness to marital problems that can show up in domestic violence cases, child abuse, and how people lash out at other people. “Lyme disease is like an injury of the brain,” says Bransfield. “Patient are less able to think things through, and tend to act impulsively” People with Lyme disease aren’t crazy. But I think that they do sometimes have a problem with how they react to certain stressful situations. Even feeling suicidal is a known issue with Lyme patients and doctors need to be aware if these feelings come up. Even reacting to certain medications, the psychological effects can be multiplied. During one of my treatments I kept having the feeling like my thoughts were all screwed up. With each dose of my medication I would be overwhelmed with the desire to end it all. I didn’t want to live anymore, didn’t want my family to have to see me that way, and I darn sure didn’t want to keep taking all of the medications I was under. After a few days I spoke with my doctor who said he wished he’d known I was going through that, because one of the rare side effects of the medication was depression and suicidal thoughts. Now that medication is on my “Do Not Take” list.
Lyme produces a microedema, or swelling in the brain. It changes the way you react, the way you think, and causes blockages of thoughts. But the good news is that there is treatments that do work and doctors who are becoming more and more aware of the disease and options.
So please don’t think there’s no hope if you are living with Chronic Lyme disease. Talk to your doctor about everything from your aches and pains to your really bad days.
To learn more about Lyme disease and to find a physician in your area, go to the ILADS’ website at www.ilads.org. Other helpful sources include the Lyme Disease Association (www.lymediseaseassociation.org) and the Lyme Disease Network (www.Lymenet.org)
Also this blog was written after reading the article The psychological effects of Lyme disease:Can a tick bite drive you crazy?
By Valerie Andrews found here: http://www.igenex.com/psychological_effects.htm