Jessica Bernstein: Check Adam Lanza for Lyme disease
January 01, 2013 4:45 am
Dear Editor: As a doctor of psychology with Lyme disease I wanted to raise the question of whether Lyme disease might be a contributing factor to the horrible shooting in Connecticut. Newton is located in a highly Lyme-endemic area. Although most people or animals with Lyme or other tick-borne diseases are not violent, a small percentage have demonstrated violent behavior.
Many may remember the chimpanzee named Travis who attacked the woman and tore off her face. That chimpanzee had Lyme disease and lived in Connecticut.
Psychiatrist Robert Bransfield, M.D., estimates that aggressive behavior has been a significant issue for approximately 100 to 200 patients with Lyme disease that he has evaluated or treated. He also emphasizes that most patients with Lyme or other tick-borne diseases “are not violent and should not be stigmatized. ... Clearly violence is a very complex issue. Many different factors have contributory or deterrent effects.”
As Bransfield says, there are likely multiple factors contributing to the level of violence displayed by Adam Lanza, including easy access to guns, but it is important that we don’t overlook Lyme. This disease is grossly underdiagnosed despite reaching epidemic proportions in areas throughout the United States, with rates more than doubling since 1991.
Given the unfathomable nature of this act, Adam Lanza should be tested for Lyme and the other tick-borne diseases. Whether or not he actually had one of these illnesses, psychologists and physicians need to be better informed about the many ways that these tick-borne diseases can manifest.
Also see the following related LNE topics, both from 2009:
Neuropsych Lyme Rage? (about the chimp attack mentioned in the article above)
Lyme Rage -- Killing (about a murder, which was attributed by some to Lyme disease)
edit: added links to related LNE topics