Panic attacks may reveal previously unsuspected chronic disseminated lyme disease

J Psychiatr Pract. 2000 Nov;6(6):352-6. doi: 10.1097/00131746-200011000-00005.


The author describes the histories of three patients with panic-like episodes that turned out to be related to underlying, previously unsuspected tick-borne diseases. Each woman experienced symptoms that are not usual in panic disorder but are typical of neurological Lyme disease, including exquisite sensitivity to light, touch, and sounds, joint pain often in combination with cognitive changes including mental fogginess and loss of recent memory, and some degree of bizarre, shifting, and often excruciating neurological pain. Because these symptoms are atypical of primary panic disorder, they were very helpful in alerting the clinician to suspect an underlying physical illness. In each case, the results of testing revealed positive hallmarks of disseminated Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, including Lyme borreliosis caused by the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis. Since beginning treatment with intensive doses of appropriate antimicrobial medications for their tick-borne infections, all three patients have become free of panic attacks. Treatment of their infections by a specialist in Lyme disease allowed one of the women to discontinue anti-anxiety medication completely and another to reduce the dose of medication to occasional use only. The third patient is no longer anxious but her depression is resolving more slowly despite the ongoing use of an antidepressant. Two of the patients have also needed ongoing medication for pain and other symptoms of late-stage, neurological Lyme disease.