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Lyme disease damages people’s mental health and increases suicidal feelings, scientists pledge

Individuals admitted to hospital with Lyme disease are more at risk of developing mental health complications and are twice as likely to attempt suicide, latest research identifies.

Academics from Columbia University and the Copenhagen Research Centre for Mental Health found that people who have had Lyme disease are 75% more likely to take their own life compared to those who have never had the illness.

Meanwhile, they are 28% more at risk of developing a mental health disorder, such as depression or bipolar.

Senior researcher, Dr Brian Fallon said: “It is time to move beyond thinking of Lyme disease as a simple illness that only causes a rash.

“In addition to the risk of severe cardiac, rheumatologic, and neurologic problems, Lyme disease can cause severe mental health problems as well.”

The scientists examined the mental health data of seven million Danish people, some of whom had Lyme disease, or were recovering from it.

They found that seven percent of people who have suffered with Lyme disease had poorer mental health and felt more suicidal compared to those who have never been diagnosed with the illness.

Renowned academic, Dr Michael Benros said: “Most people do not develop severe mental health issues after Lyme disease, but findings of the study are emblematic of a trend in Lyme disease cases that should not be overlooked.

“This nationwide study confirms the association between Lyme disease and psychiatric disorders.”

Lyme disease can also cause cognitive decline years after the initial diagnosis, previous analysis has found.

Prior research has also discovered that Lyme disease can trigger sleep disorders and severe nerve dysfunction.

Dr Benros said: “Treating clinicians and patients should be aware of an increased risk of mental health problems, particularly during the first year after a severe Lyme disease infection, and if mental health issues arise, patients should seek treatment and guidance.”

In the US, more than 500,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year.

The study is now published in the online edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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