Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Ideation Among Symptomatic Patients With a History of Lyme Disease vs Two Comparison Groups

Psychosomatics. 2018 Sep-Oct;59(5):481-489. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2018.02.004. Epub 2018 Mar 1.


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

Method: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

Keywords: Lyme disease.; chronic illness; depression; suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lyme Disease / complications
  • Lyme Disease / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*