Lyme Can Cause Depression and Suicidal Ideation

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Depression has been reported in 8-45% of patients with posttreatment Lyme symptoms (PTLS), but little is known about suicidal ideation in these patients.


Depression and suicidal ideation were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II). Scores from the PTLS group (n = 81) were compared to those from 2 other groups: HIV+ patients being treated for fatigue (n = 70), and a nonpatient comparison group (NPCG; n = 44). ANOVA and t-tests were used to compare groups; logistic regression was used to identify the strongest correlates of suicidal ideation.


Mean BDI-II scores fell in the mildly depressed range for PTLS and HIV+ patients, with both groups having higher depression scores than the NPCG. Suicidal ideation was reported by 19.8% of the PTLS patients and 27.1% of the HIV+ patients, a nonsignificant difference. Among those with mild or no depression, suicidal ideation was uncommon (6.5% PTLS and 11.9% HIV+). Among the patients with moderate-to-severe depression, suicidal ideation was more common (63.2% of 19 PTLS and 50% of 28 HIV+); among these, 2 with PTLS and 1 with HIV+ expressed suicidal intent. Further, 4.5% (n = 2) of the NPCG had suicidal ideation, each had scores in the moderate-to-severe depression range. Higher scores on the cognitive symptoms subscale of the BDI-II predicted greater likelihood of suicidal ideation across patient groups.


As expected, suicidal ideation is increased among patients who are depressed. The fact that 1 in 5 patients with PTLS reported suicidal ideation highlights the importance of screening for depression and suicidality to optimize patient care.

By Doshi S1, Keilp JG2, Strobino B3, McElhiney M3, Rabkin J3, Fallon BA3. Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Ideation Among Symptomatic Patients With a History of Lyme Disease vs Two Comparison Groups. Psychosomatics. 2018 Mar 1. pii: S0033-3182(18)30131-2. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2018.02.004. [Epub ahead of print]

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