by Dr. Bill Rawls
Can Lyme disease cause anxiety? In this video, Dr. Bill Rawls explains how the stress of chronic illness impacts adrenaline levels and mood. Plus, he shares natural remedies for anxiety and lifestyle tips for short-circuiting an overactive flight-or-fight response. Read all about Dr. Rawls’ natural approach to overcoming Lyme disease here.
Question: Are Lyme disease and anxiety connected?
Hello, I’m Dr. Bill Rawls. A question: How is Lyme disease related to anxiety?
Most people are really struggling with anxiety and sleep disturbances who have chronic Lyme disease. And the reason is that Lyme disease — the stress of Lyme disease — makes you less resistant to any kind of stress. It lowers your reserves.
So your body is stressed, and whenever your body is stressed, you activate your sympathetic nervous system, your fight-or-flight nervous system. And that’s really designed to use intermittently when there’s a real emergency, like somebody breaking into your house at 3:00 in the morning. You want that surge of adrenaline that wakes you up, gets you going, and helps you deal with that emergency.
But when your body is stressed, when the chronic illness is generating inflammation, and the microbes are disrupting everything in your body, your body becomes less stress-resistant, and it activates your fight-or-flight response chronically. If you’ve got adrenaline pushing through your system all the time, it makes your system very, very fragile.
Anything that would cause anxiety is very apt to generate that kind of response — you feel anxious, you feel revved up all the time. You’ve got that adrenaline surging through your system.
It affects your sleep, and then not getting sleep actually affects the immune disruption that would generate that. So the whole thing becomes this vicious cycle that’s never-ending.
Breaking that cycle: The first step is controlling those microbes, restoring normal immune system functions, but also bringing down your adrenaline levels, and I think that’s really, really important. When I was going through my recovery, something I became very conscious of is when my adrenaline levels were starting to raise.
I could feel the energy just building in the upper part of my body, and my body became tense. That anxiety response was very prevalent, especially as I went through the day of just dealing with stress factors. As you go through the day, it tends to make it worse. So you raise your adrenaline levels as you go through the day. That affects your cortisol, and it can really make you miserable.
Being aware of your adrenaline levels, being aware of tension is really important. When I was recovering from Lyme, I was really careful about any kind of input that was coming into my brain.
I didn’t listen to the radio. I was very careful about reading the newspaper or reading what was on the Internet. I tried to make my world small by not worrying about things in the outside world that maybe were significant, but were also things that I couldn’t really control.
You like to bring your world down to the things that you have control over, and you like to minimize that as much as you can. You’re looking to reduce factors that raise your adrenaline levels during the day.
Getting regular exercise of any kind, whether that’s just walking or doing qigong or yoga, can help diffuse that adrenaline surge that you have, that adrenaline buildup during the day. Just taking a meditation or what a lot of people call a power nap.
I used to call it touching sleep. I would take 15 to 30 minutes in the middle of the day at lunchtime and lie down, and I would try to relax myself to the point that I could just barely get to sleep, even if it was a minute or two.
If I reached that point, I know that I brought my adrenaline levels down to zero. And if you can do that once or twice during the day, that can short-circuit that adrenaline buildup and help you deal with that anxiety, that excessive overactive fight-or-flight response that’s driving this whole situation.
There are also plenty of calming herbs that can help. Ashwagandha, bacopa, passionflower — many of our calming and balancing herbs are very good for short-circuiting that sympathetic response.
So yes, Lyme disease is very, very much tied to anxiety. It does increase your propensity to become anxious, and decreases your stress resistance. The solution to that is reducing stress by using herbs to calm and normalize and balance your hormones, trying to move, trying to get exercise during the day.
Keep doing that and keep doing that and keep working at it until you become an expert at keeping those adrenaline levels down through the day.
Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.
You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.