Any person suffering from a disease will undoubtedly experience a decline in their mental health. Not only do they worry about the state of their physical health, but this constant state of worrying also takes a toll on their mental health; making them anxious, irritable and a lot more prone to depression. People who have Lyme disease are no stranger to this. Luckily, a rise in the awareness of mental health at present gave way to behavioral practices that can improve not only a person’s mental health but even their behavioral health at large. According to Joseph Trunzo Ph.D., “Someone suffering from a debilitating disease may be depressed or anxious as a reaction to being ill, it is also important to consider that the debilitating disease might be biologically driving the psychological symptoms.”
Bitten By The Tick Bug
It could be quite jarring if the flu-like symptoms you have experienced a week or so ago were the warning signs for a possible infection from a bite of the black-legged tick. Suddenly you’ve been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, and you don’t know what to do or how to feel. You might even feel like you are alone in this battle. It causes you distress, but worry not. There is hope: Lyme Disease is treatable.
Of course, it is perfectly safe to feel lost and utterly scared right after the diagnosis. Usually when you have laid eyes on what might have potentially bitten you:
An effective way to combat fear is knowledge. You have to know what bit you. You also have to identify ways of getting yourself better. Lyme Disease has three stages of infection:
- Early Localized Lyme- which is characterized by mostly flu-like symptoms: typical headache, fever, chills, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. It is also at this stage where a rash shaped like a bulls-eye is visible.
- Early Disseminated Lyme- the flu-like symptoms from the previous stage are now with pain, weakness or numbness in either the legs, arms or both, vision changes, heart palpitations, chest pain, a rash, and facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy).
- Late Disseminated Lyme- this stage can occur weeks, months or several years after the tick bite. Symptoms for this latter stage might include arthritis, severe fatigue and headaches, vertigo, insomnia and other sleep disturbances, and possible mental confusion.
Studies have indicated that roughly 10% of people treated with Lyme Disease still feel the effects of carrying the disease despite being already cured. This condition is called post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. Patients suffering from this syndrome may exhibit three core symptoms: muscle or joint pain, fatigue, and short-term memory loss or mental confusion. There are some speculations as to why these Lyme symptoms mention earlier became chronic. One of which is that the body continues fighting the infection long after the bacteria are gone, akin to an autoimmune disorder.
Depression has been in 8-45% of patients with post-treatment Lyme symptoms as reported. Inflammatory reactions and autoimmune symptoms in Lyme disease decrease serotonin and other chemicals that protect the brain cells. Inflammation also increases neurotoxins, which might contribute to the neurological and cognitive deficits seen in patients with similar tick infections. Damage in the hippocampal region of the brain due to the neurotoxins has been in association with depression and dementia. Richard Horowitz, M.D. notes that “Patients in my practice who score high on standardized tests for depression and anxiety often return to near normal scores when their Lyme disease and co-infections are treated successfully.”
Focusing On Behavioral Health: Fighting Back
Once your body is sick, you need to fight back. It is not limited to taking medicine and hoping for the best. No, when you fight back, you need to condition your body and your mind that you will get better as soon as possible. How do you do this? By focusing on your behavioral health!
What activities are you aware that you continuously do, which you know is not healthy for you? How should you go about to help yourself manage your disease?
Improving your physical and mental health go hand in hand when behavioral health is concerned. Ted Jones, PhD says that “An important skill for the patient is be able to accept his or her situation and decrease their emotional struggle with the situation.” You help yourself get better physically, while at the same time you develop a healthy mindset to dispel harmful thoughts and focus on a positive and constructive outlook. Wellness is a priority, promoting healthy sleeping and eating habits, as well as proper exercise and a well-balanced diet following the medication and doctor prescribed activities for your condition. Studies show people who actively engage in physical activities (when doctor approved, as well as your body can take) come out happier and healthier overall. Behavioral health focuses on improving the body’s overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Treating Lyme Disease at the latter stages is no easy feat, but the best thing a patient can do to battle the overwhelming fatigue, uneasiness, and anxiety caused by the disease is to better their overall wellbeing. Focusing on what makes them happy and healthy is one small step to a faster recovery and better health.