Obsessive-compulsive symptoms in adults with Lyme disease

Carly Johnco*, Brittany B. Kugler, Tanya K. Murphy, Eric A. Storch

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: This study examined the phenomenology and clinical characteristics of obsessive compulsive symptoms (OCS) in adults diagnosed with Lyme disease.

    Method: Participants were 147 adults aged 18–82 years (M = 43.81, SD = 12.98) who reported having been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Participants were recruited from online support groups for individuals with Lyme disease, and completed an online questionnaire about their experience of OCS, Lyme disease characteristics, and the temporal relationship between these symptoms.

    Results: OCS were common, with 84% endorsing clinically significant symptoms, 26% of which endorsed symptoms onset during the six months following their Lyme disease diagnosis and another 51% believed their symptoms were temporally related. Despite the common occurrence of OCS, only 44% of these participants self-identified these symptoms as problematic. Greater frequency of Lyme disease symptoms and disease-related impairment was related to greater OCS. In the majority of cases, symptom onset was gradual, and responded well to psychological and pharmacological treatment. Around half of participants (51%) reported at least some improvement in OCS following antibiotic treatment.

    Conclusions: This study highlights the common co-occurrence of OCS in patients with Lyme disease. It is unclear whether OCS are due to the direct physiological effects of Lyme disease or associated immunologic response, a psychological response to illness, a functional somatic syndrome, or some combination of these.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)85-89
    Number of pages5
    JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


    • Lyme
    • Lyme disease
    • obsessive compulsive disorder
    • OCD


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