The New Arachnophobia: Lyme and other tick borne illnesses

This is not about the fear of spiders. This is about the lesser known, less often considered arachnid: the tick. For those who know or have experienced this small creatures abilities, they may be the scariest thing in the woods. Beyond their near invisibility, and penchant for sucking blood, they harbor a stealthy and persistent host of diseases that have the ability and seem to increasingly cause life changing symptom presentations. These are sometimes subtle and pervasive, sometimes overt and crippling, or both. While this may be known to many, what may be even less well known are the many neurological and psychiatric symptoms of Lyme and other tick borne diseases (TBD).

Lyme is known to present it self as virtually every available diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). This is the manual defining known mental illnesses. In particular Lyme has the ability to exacerbate or create significant anxiety and panic conditions, disorientation, obsessive compulsive disorder, sleep disturbance, depression. Some may even experience psychotic symptoms. In my clinical experience while working in central Maine, a Lyme hot spot, I saw a disproportionate amount of people with treatment resistant mental illness coupled with chronic diseases such as fibromyalgia, unexplained seizures, and unknown autoimmune issues. This is not atypical, however, for patients with undiagnosed or under treated Lyme disease. If only I had known then what I know now.

Experiencing prolonged mental health symptoms, specifically things such as panic or markedly increased anxiety and/or obsessive compulsiveness, depression, insomnia, coupled with physical symptoms such as recurring fevers, neuropathic pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, or fatigue, one should consult their physician about ruling out Lyme disease or other tick borne infections. Potentially one might experience disorientation, such as driving and not knowing momentarily where you are or where you are going. Many experience aphasia, either forgetting or scrambling words, and other forms of confusion. Here are some links to more complete listing of symptoms associated with Lyme and other tick borne infections:

http://www.columbia-lyme.org/patients/ld_lyme_symptoms.html

http://www.lyme-symptoms.com/1Lyme-Symptoms.html

http://www.lyme-symptoms.com/LymeCoinfectionChart.html

http://www.igenex.com/psychological_effects.htm

http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/about-lyme/neurology-psychiatry/

In addition I highly recommend the film Under Our Skin, and it’s sequel Emergence available on youtube.

They are powerful documentaries that will scare the pants off you, but more important will help illustrate this very complex disease and the even odder culture that surrounds diagnosis and treatment. It is very difficult to find good guidance with appropriate knowledge towards the right treatment course. There are so many conflicting points of view and some result in great harm to the patient. In my practice I work hard to advocate and make use of my specific knowledge to empower clients to manage and take command of their healthcare.

Be well,

David Aronson LCSW

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