Microbes are the greatest predator of man. As medical technology improves, there is increasing recognition that infectious disease contributes not only to acute, but also chronic relapsing illness and mental illness. -Robert C. Bransfield, M.D.
Probably the biggest challenge facing those sick with Lyme disease
manifesting with psychiatric symptoms is to get the Lyme disease diagnosis in
the first place. Many people with Lyme and associated mental dysfunction (this
is about 95% of all Lyme sufferers) never get diagnosed properly and are left to
struggle with palliative treatment, institutionalization, and basically a life
sentence of obscurity and panic.
Even for those with the right diagnosis,
for example, Lyme disease infection, symptoms of mental illness are obviously
still devastating. I created this video to address some of the common
experiences, and some useful solutions / tips, for people who meet this
description. Below the video is an excerpt from a book I wrote in 2007 entitled
The Lyme-Autism Connection, which further addresses the topic of the connection
between Lyme disease and mental illness.
Excerpt: Mental Illnesses and
Autism, Lyme Disease
From the book, The Lyme Autism Connection
similarities between Lyme disease and autism, especially in children, are
astounding. Obviously, symptom similarity alone is not a strong enough
scientific indicator to implicate Lyme disease in the autism epidemic. However,
when considered within the framework of the other arguments presented in this
book, symptom similarity becomes an important, central piece of the puzzle.
This chapter was written with three primary goals. First, we will look
at the diagnostic procedures used in classifying mental illnesses. Then we will
show that a Lyme disease diagnosis overlaps with numerous other mental
disorders. Finally, we will show that an autism diagnosis not only overlaps with
a variety of different mental illnesses as well, but that they happen to be, in
many cases, the same mental illnesses which overlap with Lyme disease.
Additionally, the chapter will also cover various data which support the above
Symptoms vs. Syndromes
At first glance, the obvious
question to ask in this chapter is whether or not the symptoms of Lyme disease
overlap with the symptoms of autism. As you will see, however, this question is
much too broad. You will see that Lyme disease is known as the “great imitator”
because it can mimic dozens of seemingly unrelated health problems. Lyme disease
symptoms overlap with just about every mental illness, so it is not very
impressive to show that they also overlap with autism.
For this reason,
we will instead take a narrower look at the symptom similarities between Lyme
disease and autism, and delve further into analyzing the overlap. Namely, we
will not look at individual symptoms the diseases share in common, but instead
at entire disease syndromes which the two diseases share in common. For example,
we will go further than to just say “Lyme disease and autism both cause
headaches.” Rather, we will say that “Lyme disease and autism both manifest as
schizophrenia.” A headache is an individual symptom, while schizophrenia is a
For our purpose of further analyzing the Lyme-autism
connection, it is more helpful to look at overlapping disease syndromes instead
of just overlapping symptoms because disease syndromes are much more complex,
specific, and isolated than are individual symptoms. Many things can cause a
headache, such as fatigue, a bad lunch, or a fight with a spouse. So,
demonstrating that Lyme disease and autism both cause headaches does not add
much support to the Lyme-autism connection. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is
not caused by many factors, and cannot be confused with simple triggers like a
bad hamburger or emotional stress. By narrowing the comparison down to specific
disease syndromes, we can build a much stronger case for the Lyme-autism
Blurred Lines Between Disease Labels
In order to show
that both Lyme disease and autism share in common numerous disease syndromes, we
must first accept the fact that the diagnostic lines are blurred between autism,
Lyme disease, and numerous other mental illnesses, leading to somewhat arbitrary
and meaningless guidelines for diagnosing the diseases. For example, someone
diagnosed with the label “schizophrenia” may in fact be suffering from Lyme
disease, autism, or both. “Schizophrenia” is not a disease; instead it is a
disease presentation. The label schizophrenia says nothing about the reason for
the disease, or the cause, but instead simply says that a given person is
suffering from a collection of physiologic and symptomatic dysfunctions.
It is important to keep this in mind as you think about Lyme disease,
autism, and the list of mimicking diseases. You have to ask yourself, “Does the
disease label in question tell me anything about what is actually causing this
health problem?” Understanding that many of the disease labels used by
conventional medicine are actually not indicative of the cause of the disease
will help you learn how to adjust your thinking process and see that many
“diseases” do not in fact have established, defined boundaries separating them
from other “diseases,” but are instead simply a melting pot of symptomatic and
Why is this important? Let’s again use
the example of a headache. When someone says, “I have a headache,” you would
never jump to a conclusion about what is causing the headache unless you knew
more about the person’s current circumstances. A headache is not a disease in
and of itself; instead it is a list of symptomatic and physiologic properties,
namely, pain in the head, and typically, inflammation in the head. We all know
that many things can cause headaches, hence, if someone mentions their headache,
the next thing you might try to do is play detective to discover what is causing
the headache. You might ask the person what they ate for lunch, how much sleep
they are getting, or what is happening at work. You would never assume that the
cause of their headache is the headache itself. Headaches always have
underlying, root causes.
In the same way, if someone has schizophrenia or
autism, you should train your mind to play the same detective role.
Schizophrenia and autism are no more the cause of a health problem than is a
headache. Instead, schizophrenia and autism are just labels for a set of
symptomatic and physiologic characteristics. When you begin to adopt this way of
thinking, you can see that the lines between various diseases can easily become
When autism is seen as a set of symptoms rather than a defined
“disease,” it leaves a lot more room for questions—questions which can
ultimately lead to a better understanding of the disease and its cause(s). Do
not passively accept a diagnosis of autism as the final description of your
child’s health. You should empower yourself to play detective and get to the
bottom of the symptoms, instead of simply accepting the diagnosis and giving up.
If you think about Lyme disease and autism as separate diseases, with
distinct boundaries, then the Lyme-autism connection seems improbable. However,
if you think of the two diseases accurately, as nothing more than arbitrary
labels which encompass a grouping of symptoms, some of which overlap, then the
question arises and must be answered: what is the root cause of the disease
syndromes? Is the root cause potentially the same?
Now, a clarifying
point is in order here. Some diseases certainly do include causative factors in
their label. For example, strep throat is caused by…strep bacteria in the
throat. The disease label “strep throat” is one which is accurate in its
description of causality. Similarly, Lyme disease is caused by Lyme disease
bacteria (the scientific name for which is Borrelia burgdorferi). So, when we
are looking at the Lyme-autism connection, what we are really asking is whether
or not autism shares the same root cause as Lyme disease, namely, a Borrelia
Ok, so this all sounds good in theory, but where is the
evidence? Let’s now turn our attention to several scientific studies which
provide objective substantiation for the theory we just talked about—the theory
that mental disorders have blurred diagnostic lines.
Lyme Disease: The
To substantiate the theory that disease labels are
relatively arbitrary and have blurred defining lines, let’s begin by looking at
Lyme disease and the many diseases which it mimics.
The Journal of
Neuropsychiatry in 2001 published an article in which it was stated that
“Children with Lyme disease have…cognitive and psychiatric
disturbances…resulting in psycho-social and academic impairments.” According to
Dr. Frederic Blanc, of the University of Strasbourg, France, “The neurological
and psychiatric manifestations of Borrelia are so numerous that it is called the
‘new great imitator.’ Every part of the nervous system can be involved: from
central to peripheral.”
It is difficult to convey just how broad and
diverse Lyme disease symptoms can be. As the “new great imitator” (Syphilis was
considered the original great imitator), Lyme disease mimics dozens of seemingly
unrelated illnesses, from physical disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome
and arthritis, to psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, obsessive
compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome, depression, bipolar disorder, and more.
According to psychiatrists at Columbia University, as published in 1994 in the
American Journal of Psychiatry:
“Lyme disease can trigger a broad range
of psychiatric reactions, including paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia nervosa and
As you can see, Lyme disease is often the
root cause of a long list of diseases. In these cases, there is in fact zero
separation between the seemingly distinct diseases on the list—the lines are
blurred beyond recognition. A variety of mental disorders can potentially all
have the same root cause.
Antiquated belief that Lyme disease is
characterized by a limited set of mostly benign symptoms is rapidly being
replaced by modern, increasingly accurate models of Lyme disease symptomology
that encompass a vast diversity of symptomology in numerous body systems. So, if
you are doubtful that a simple bacterial infection can cause such diverse
symptoms as are present in autism, be forewarned—Lyme disease is a highly
advanced neuropsychiatric disease with complicated and poorly understood effects
on the brain. The combination of wide-ranging symptoms and the prevalence of
false-negative laboratory test results means that Lyme disease may be one of the
most rampant, yet under-diagnosed, infections on the planet. And, when the Lyme
infection occurs in the womb, a new set of variables and complexities are
introduced to the scene which further broaden the potential neurological effects
of Lyme disease.
Still, the fact that Lyme disease is a great imitator
is nothing worth writing home about—this has become accepted science in both
mainstream and alternative medicine. Therefore, we will not belabor this point
here. To learn more about Lyme disease as a great imitator, read Appendix B and
consult available Lyme disease literature.
The real point we are tracking
down in this chapter is not merely the fact that Lyme disease shares blurred
lines with many mental illnesses, but, more importantly, the fact that autism
also shares blurred lines with a variety of mental disorders. Even more
important yet is the paramount question of whether or not Lyme disease and
autism share blurred lines with the same set of mental illnesses.
The Next Great Imitator?
You may be surprised to learn that just as Lyme
disease is a great imitator, so also is autism.
Many autistic people have
a broad range of psychological symptoms, not just those few which have
historically defined “classic” autism. Autism is currently being re-defined as a
multi-systemic, multi-factorial disease. In this section, we will examine some
of the science surrounding autism as a great imitator. For each of the
scientific studies below, we will note their relevance to the Lyme-autism
Swedish researchers have observed a fascinating overlap
between symptoms of autism and other mental illnesses. In 2004, the Department
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, at Göteborg University, Sweden, published
findings in the Journal of Neural Transmission indicating that patients
suffering from autism also sometimes have symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). The Swedish
researchers don’t offer an explanation for this symptom overlap, but they do
acknowledge it, and conclude their study by stating that “Current diagnostic
criteria have to be revised to acknowledge the co-morbidity of autism with
bipolar disorder, AD/HD, schizophrenia, and other psychotic
The connection: Of the mental illnesses which Lyme disease
mimics, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity
disorder are at the top of the list.
Researchers at the University of
Michigan published a study in 2004 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental
Disorders which concluded with the following statement: “This study lends
support to the validity of depression as a distinct condition in some children
with autism/PDD and suggests that, as in the normal population, autistic
children who suffer from depression are more likely to have a family history of
The connection: These findings are significant for two
reasons: first, the study indicates that depression is part of the autism
complex of symptoms, and second, this depression can be found in family history.
Both of these points are true of Lyme disease, as well.
similar conclusions are being reached. The Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry
Research Centre published in 1998 a study entitled “Autism, affective and other
psychiatric disorders: patterns of familial aggregation.” The report was
released by Cambridge University Press in the Journal of Psychological Medicine.
In addition to finding a correlation between familial mental disorders and
autism, researchers also discovered that “Individuals with a singular diagnosis
of obsessive-compulsive disorder were more likely to exhibit autistic-like
social and communication impairments.”
The connection: This finding is
fascinating because it tells us that not only does autism involve symptoms of
other, previously believed separate diseases, but the converse of this is also
true; that those separate diseases also sometimes include symptoms known to
occur in autism. This further blurs the lines between different mental
disorders. This is another piece of the puzzle that shatters the previous belief
that autism is completely distinct and separate from other psychiatric diseases.
Modern medicine likes to put these diseases in their own neatly organized,
unrelated files, but reality just won’t comply with such an organizational
City of Hope National Medical Center in California published
findings that link autism and Tourette syndrome. Researchers found that “there
is an intimate genetic, neuropathologic relatedness between some cases of
[autism] and Tourette syndrome.” Additionally, these researchers noted frequent
family groupings of the two afflictions, with obsessive compulsive disorder also
showing up frequently.
The connection: The Lancet in 1998 published a
study linking Lyme disease with Tourette syndrome. A 4-year old boy developed
typical Tourette symptoms and was subsequently diagnosed with Lyme disease by
ELISA IgG antibody testing. Upon antibiotic treatment, all symptoms resolved.
From the Lancet: “Rapid efficacy of antibiotic treatment followed by a decrease
in Borrelia-specific antibody titres suggests that the multiple motor and vocal
tics [in this 4-year old boy] were at least partially caused by the tertiary
stage of Borreliosis.” Therefore, both autism and Lyme disease share in common
blurred lines with Tourette syndrome.
The lines between autism and other
mental disorders are further blurred when considering the methods used to
diagnose autism. This is an important area to examine because the diagnostic
model used in categorizing childhood mental disorders is the primary determinant
of the next twenty or more years of treatment decisions. Consider this
carefully—if a child is diagnosed with autism but Lyme disease is really the
root problem, then parents will spend thousands (or maybe millions) of dollars,
thousands of hours, and incalculable stress, pursuing the wrong course(s) of
treatment. Hence, proper diagnostic procedures, or at least, proper
understanding of the limitations of modern diagnostic capabilities, is essential
for ensuring that a lifetime of energy is focused in the right direction. This
statement is substantiated by the experiences of numerous mothers, whose stories
appear in Appendix E. These mothers only received desirable treatment results
after discovering the Lyme infection in their children. Prior to the discovery,
they wasted incalculable time, energy and money chasing palliative
Alarmingly, the diagnostic model used for autism can be
relatively unreliable. The Indiana University School of Medicine in 1971
evaluated 5 diagnostic systems designed to differentiate infantile autism and
early childhood schizophrenia and published their findings in the Journal of
Autism and Developmental Disorders. Diagnostic scores from 44 children were
examined. Some of the five diagnostic systems contradicted the others, leading
to a confusing and disturbing debate about the definitions of autism and
schizophrenia. So similar are the two diseases that the lines between them
become blurred when using these diagnostic systems, and the results of the
diagnostic procedures become relatively meaningless. Obviously, diagnostic
systems have improved exponentially since 1971. However, even today, the same
symptom similarities exist between autism and schizophrenia, resulting in debate
and disagreement about proper courses of treatment for the two disorders, not to
mention heated arguments between parents and physicians about which treatments
are most logical to pursue. Modern medicine’s appearance of having everything
figured out, with white-coated, authoritative doctors passing down final
diagnostic decrees to parents, is riddled with an uncertain and ambiguous past.
The tendency to over-compartmentalize diseases without sufficient data
is not limited to just the commercial medical industry—non-profit research
organizations dedicated to healing schizophrenia and autism also suffer the
effects of arbitrarily separating autism from schizophrenia when conducting
research and presenting information. The reality is that autism and
schizophrenia are intimately related, and only when this fact is accounted for
will true breakthrough occur in the research of the two conditions. Autism and
schizophrenia are not two separate entities like the colors black and white.
They resemble more closely a shade of grey, mixing some amount of black and some
amount of white. When researchers only look at the black, they miss the big
picture, and when they only look at white, they don’t see all of the facts. Only
when shades of grey are acknowledged, will the mechanisms behind the afflictions
become more apparent.
Any parent with an autistic child knows that their
child exhibits a wide array of symptoms and that no two days are alike. Unlike
high cholesterol or diabetes, which are fairly constant disorders with very few
variations in symptoms and presentation, autism is a wildly variable condition
that seems to follow no particular pattern or predictable course.
far in this chapter, we have worked to establish that not only do Lyme disease
and autism act like great imitators, but the diseases which they imitate happen
to be the same diseases—namely, mental disorders such as schizophrenia,
obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, Tourette syndrome, AD/HD, and others.
Although this overlap in associated disease syndromes (and, more broadly,
associated individual symptoms) is not sufficient evidence to stand alone as the
foundation for the Lyme-autism connection, this observation is, again, one more
piece of the puzzle.
It really is shocking and insightful to discover
that Lyme disease and autism are separated by much less space than medical
schools and textbooks teach. If these broad similarities are not explained by an
underlying Lyme disease infection, then what is the explanation? Isn’t it a bit
improbable that two supposedly separate diseases are so intimately related in so
Before concluding this chapter, we will briefly introduce one
more area of overlap: autoimmunity.
Lyme disease and
autism not only share numerous similarities with regard to psychiatric symptoms
and syndromes, but also autoimmunity.
The number of studies linking both
Lyme disease and autism to autoimmune dysfunction is vast, encompassing dozens
of published articles released by several research institutions. For specific
studies, visit MEDLINE at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed and search for keywords autism
autoimmune and lyme disease autoimmune. At the time of this writing, the first
search string yielded 86 studies and the second string yielded 123 studies.
The fact that Lyme disease and autism share autoimmunity in common is,
of course, fascinating, and lends credit to the Lyme-autism hypothesis. However,
the link becomes even stronger in light of the fact that new research is
revealing that many autoimmune disorders are caused by stealth infections.
Recent research has found that treatments aimed at eradicating stealth
infections happen to also provide relief, and in some cases, remission or cure,
for autoimmune diseases.
One such cutting-edge treatment is the Marshall
Protocol, discussed at length in The Top 10 Lyme Disease Treatments. The
Marshall Protocol is significant in this context because it defines and reveals
the mechanism by which symptoms of autoimmunity can really be an indication of
underlying infection. Patients experiencing healing on the Marshall Protocol
suffer from a wide range of autoimmune disorders—and healing is taking place via
the anti-infective treatments that comprise the protocol. Autoimmunity is
defined as the body attacking its own cells. But why would it do that? The new,
prevailing theory is that there is a stealth infection inhabiting body tissues
and when the immune system attempts to attack that infection, it mistakenly
attacks its own proteins which might look similar to the proteins that compose
the infectious microorganisms. This new theory of autoimmunity is gaining
It shouldn’t surprise us that autoimmunity is involved in Lyme
disease. After all, Lyme disease is known to be caused by an infection. However,
what about autism? Why is there autoimmunity in autism? Is there an underlying
infection? If, in fact, autoimmunity is caused by an infectious process, then
the autoimmune link between Lyme disease and autism becomes quite telling and
is, yet again, just another piece of the puzzle.
Where the Rubber Meets
Hopefully, this chapter has given you a new perspective on
childhood developmental disorders. Remember, if your child gets diagnosed with
any of the disease labels we have just looked at, do not be satisfied with the
diagnosis. Being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder is like being
diagnosed with a headache. A headache is not a diagnosis, it is a symptom. A
headache is the beginning of the diagnostic journey, not the end. The same can
be said of attention deficit disorder.
The minute you start treating your
child’s attention deficit disorder (or autism, or schizophrenia, or
fill-in-the-blank disorder) as if it is a complete diagnosis, you are beginning
a losing battle. Why? The reason is logical and simple. Since these disease
labels do not factor in the true cause(s) of the disease (whatever the cause(s)
may be), the only treatment modern medicine can offer you is palliative
treatment. Palliative treatment is that which covers symptoms instead of
addressing cause. The word palliative is derived from the Latin word palliare,
which means “to cloak.”
Antidepressant drugs are an example of a
palliative treatment, and, not surprisingly, antidepressant drugs are the
treatment most often given for childhood developmental disorders. Other
palliative drugs include anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and sedative. These drugs
only temporarily snuff out the symptoms of the underlying problem. And, these
drugs have ghastly, brutal side effects of which the public is becoming
increasingly aware—such as aggressive behavior, suicidal thoughts and ideation,
and decline in intellect. Are these horrendous side effects justified given that
the drugs are not even addressing the cause of the disease?
Most of the
autism treatment programs and centers in the United States (at least among
mainstream medicine) do nothing but offer palliative, or “behavioral” treatment.
The government, non-profit research organizations, and parents spend millions of
dollars on palliative treatments for childhood developmental disorders. What
would happen if some of that money were actually spent on what really matters;
that is, trying to locate and treat the cause? Would you offer physical therapy
to someone suffering from a broken leg, or would you repair the broken
Now that you are equipped with knowledge, and you know that
childhood developmental disorders do in fact have underlying, scientific,
physiological causes (even though these causes are sometimes elusive and
difficult to isolate), you can begin to play detective with your child and treat
the causes, not the symptoms, of their disease. Palliative treatments are useful
to increase quality of life during the discovery process. But the palliative
treatments themselves are not the end goal.
Maybe your child’s disorder
is caused by an imbalance of intestinal microflora. In this case, you might
consider using probiotics, diet, and herbs to correct the problem. Or maybe, it
is mercury poisoning, for which you could use chelation. Or possibly, your
child’s disorder is caused by food allergies, which you might alleviate by an
elimination diet. Or, as this book proposes, maybe your child’s autism is caused
by Lyme disease, in which case you may decide to undergo Lyme treatment.
Whatever the underlying cause, the thought pattern is the same: you, as the
parent, must step up to the plate, take responsibility, reject the “diagnosis”
your child was given, and search for the underlying cause.
A good friend
of mine (Bryan) suffered from migraine headaches for years. She drained her bank
account trying the strongest painkillers and anti-migraine medications
available. She endured the side effects of powerful, dangerous pharmaceuticals.
She only received minimal relief, and suffered greatly. One day, a thinking
physician inquired about her diet and discovered that she consumed diet soda pop
once or twice a day, every day of her life. In fact, if she ran out of soda, she
would make a special trip to the store to replenish her stock. After she
objected vehemently, he finally convinced her to go without the soda for a few
weeks. Bingo! The headaches disappeared, almost overnight. The palliative,
symptom-covering painkillers were not the answer (although they did make a few
CEOs and stockholders richer). Eliminating the root cause was the
I do not want to oversimplify childhood developmental disorders.
In most cases, the detective work necessary is much more difficult than the
experience my friend had with her headaches. However, you owe it to yourself and
your child to at least try the detective strategy. In the best case scenario,
you will cure your child, and in the worst case scenario, you will at least
become educated about your son or daughter’s body, and provide him or her with
some level of relief, however minor. But most importantly, taking a detective
approach will ensure that you are doing absolutely everything you can to be a
You, as a thinking, caring, intelligent parent, have what it
takes to be a detective and to reject the superficial diagnosis given by a
doctor whose thinking is victim of the dogmatic, palliative treatment paradigm
that currently rules American medicine.