In some people, symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, like irrational fears, irritability and excessive worrying, may be caused by an infection-triggered autoimmune encephalopathy.

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a normal emotion that is healthy and not unusual during life’s stressful moments. But when the anxiety is persistent, will not go away and involves recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder can be caused by multiple factors, such as genetics, environmental stressors and medical conditions. New research also indicates that chronic anxiety symptoms that will not go away can be due to an autoimmune response, triggered by common infections.

Can infections cause anxiety that won’t go away?

Anxiety disorders fall into different categories depending upon the symptoms. An individual may suffer from generalized anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and social anxiety. A child may exhibit sudden onset of severe anxiety when leaving a parent’s side. This is known as separation anxiety and is often seen in children with PANS or PANDAS.

In some people, infections can trigger symptoms such as irrational fears typically associated with an anxiety disorder. For example, viral infections in childhood (i.e. chickenpox, measles, mumps) have been found to not only precede but also contribute to the risk of developing social phobias.

Whooping cough, scarlet fever, mumps, diphtheria, typhus and dysentery have all been linked to an increased likelihood of having an anxiety disorder in adults. 3 And influenza, varicella-zoster virus (known to cause chicken pox and shingles), HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C 4 and cytomegalovirus (CMV) 5 have been implicated in anxiety and depression.

Get treated for treatment-resistant symptoms

Childhood infections may increase risk of anxiety disorder

Additionally, children who develop a severe infection in their first year of life may be at greater risk of developing an anxiety disorder later in childhood and adolescence. 6

“The data suggest that early severe infection may be related to increased likelihood of major depression, overanxious disorder, separation anxiety, and specific phobia, compared to those without infection, who were not exposed to infection early in life.” 6

Immune dysfunction may result in anxiety symptoms

When an infection enters the body, the immune system produces antibodies to destroy the harmful substance. But in some people, these antibodies mistakenly attack healthy cells in the brain. This can result in brain inflammation and the onset of symptoms that mimic psychiatric illnesses, such as anxiety that will not go away and depression.

In these cases, the patient may not have an anxiety disorder but possibly an infection-triggered autoimmune encephalopathy. Symptoms, such as irrational fears (phobias), anxiousness, panic attacks could be a result of an autoimmune attack on the brain.

Individuals who have anxiety symptoms that appear suddenly, will not go away or do not respond to standard treatment may have an infection-induced autoimmune encephalopathy, rather than a primary psychiatric illness.

The distinction is important, so check with your doctor since treatment differs for each condition. An infection-triggered autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (such as PANS and PANDAS) is often treated by eliminating any infection(s), reducing brain inflammation and stopping the attack on the immune system which typically involves immunomodulatory treatments. 7

  1. Witthauer C, Gloster AT, Meyer AH, Goodwin RD, Lieb R. Comorbidity of infectious diseases and anxiety disorders in adults and its association with quality of life: a community study. Front Public Health. 2014;2:80. Published 2014 Jul 14. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2014.00080
  2. Ajdacic-Gross V, Aleksandrowicz A, Rodgers S, et al. Social Phobia Is Associated with Delayed Onset of Chickenpox, Measles, and Mumps Infections. Front Psychiatry. 2016;7:203. Published 2016 Dec 27. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00203
  3. Witthauer C, Gloster AT, Meyer AH, Goodwin RD, Lieb R. Comorbidity of infectious diseases and anxiety disorders in adults and its association with quality of life: a community study. Front Public Health. 2014;2:80. Published 2014 Jul 14. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2014.00080
  4. Coughlin SS. Anxiety and Depression: Linkages with Viral Diseases. Public Health Rev. 2012;34(2):92.
  5. Anna C. Phillips, Douglas Carroll, Naeem Khan, Paul Moss Brain. Cytomegalovirus is associated with depression and anxiety in older adults. Behav Immun. 2008 Jan; 22(1): 52–55. Published online 2007 Aug 20. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2007.06.012
  6. Goodwin RD. Association between infection early in life and mental disorders among youth in the community: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:878. Published 2011 Nov 21. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-878
  7. Jennifer Frankovich, Susan Swedo, Tanya Murphy, Russell C. Dale, Dritan Agalliu, Kyle Williams, Michael Daines, Mady Hornig, Harry Chugani, Terence Sanger, Eyal Muscal, Mark Pasternack, Michael Cooperstock, Hayley Gans, Yujuan Zhang, Madeleine Cunningham, Gail Bernstein, Reuven Bromberg, Theresa Willett, Kayla Brown, Bahare Farhadian, Kiki Chang, Daniel Geller, Joseph Hernandez, Janell Sherr, Richard Shaw, Elizabeth Latimer, James Leckman, Margo Thienemann, and PANS/PANDAS Consortium. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Sep 2017.574-593.
Symptoms of infection may mimic psychiatric illnesses, such as anxiety that will not go away

“The results of this study suggest that specific infectious diseases are associated with significantly increased prevalence of anxiety disorders.” 1

Infections may cause anxiety that won’t go away - recognize the symptoms
Find Out: How can an infection cause symptoms of anxiety?

Learn more about how infections can trigger neuropsychiatric symptoms

Cunningham Panel helps identify an autoimmune disorder in child initially diagnosed with schizophrenia

Cunningham Panel™ helps identify an autoimmune disorder in child initially diagnosed with schizophrenia

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Autoimmune diseases and severe infections as risk factors for mood disorders: a nationwide study

Autoimmune diseases and severe infections as risk factors for mood disorders: a nationwide study

This nationwide, population-based, prospective cohort study examines the link between mood disorders, infections, and autoimmune disease.

Childhood infections can increase risk of mental illness in kids

Childhood infections can increase risk of mental illness in kids

Nationwide study finds both mild and severe infections can increase risk of mental disorders in children and adolescents.

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    The Cunningham Panel™ – Antibody testing that helps determine whether an autoimmune response may be triggering neurologic and/or psychiatric symptoms.

B. Robert Mozayeni, MD

Medical and Clinical Advisor

B. Robert Mozayeni MD

Dr. B. Robert Mozayeni was trained in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology at Yale and at NIH. He has had pre- and post-doctoral Fellowships in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, and also at NIH where he was a Howard Hughes Research Scholar at LMB/DCBD/NCI and later, Senior Staff Fellow at LMMB/NHLBI/NIH. Editorial board of Infectious Diseases – Surveillance, Prevention and Treatment. Past President of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).

He is an expert in Translational Medicine, the science and art of advancing medical science safely and efficiently. He is a Fellow of the non-profit Think Lead Innovate Foundation and is a co-founder of the Foundation for the Study of Inflammatory Diseases. He is a Founder of the Foundation for the Study of Inflammatory Diseases to crowd-source medical solutions for complex conditions using existing knowledge, diagnostic methods, and therapies to meet patient needs immediately. He is the Chief Medical Officer of Galaxy Diagnostics, LLC. He is a Board member of the Human-Kind Alliance. Dr. Mozayeni has held admitting privileges (since 1994) on the clinical staff of Suburban Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine and an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

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Moleculera Labs, Clinical Laboratory Advisor
Medical Database, Inc., President and CEO

Sajo Baqaj, PhD

Dr. Sajo Beqaj is board certified in molecular pathology and genetics and licensed as a Bioanalyst and High Complexity Laboratory Director. He has been practicing as a laboratory director since 2005.

Dr. Beqaj served as a technical director and was part of the initial management team for several well-known laboratories in the clinical lab industry including PathGroup, Nashville, TN; DCL Medical Laboratories, Indianapolis, IN, and Pathology, Inc, Torrance, CA. He is currently serving as off-side CLIA laboratory director for BioCorp Clinical Laboratory, Whittier, CA and Health360 Labs, Garden Grove, CA.

Dr. Beqaj received his Ph.D. in Pathology from Wayne State University Medical School, Detroit, Michigan. He performed his post-doctoral fellowship at Abbott Laboratories from 2001-2003 and with Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University from 2003-2005.

Dr. Beqaj has taught in several academic institutions and has published numerous medical textbook chapters and journal articles. He has served as a principal investigator in clinical trials for several well-known pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies such as Roche HPV Athena, Merck HPV vaccine, BD vaginitis panel, Roche (Vantana) CINtec® Histology clinical trials, and has presented various scientific clinical abstracts and presentations.

He is a member of several medical and scientific associations including the Association of Molecular Pathology, American Association of Clinical Chemistry and the Pan Am Society for Clinical Virology. He has served on a number of clinical laboratory regulatory and scientific committees, and has assisted several laboratories and physicians as a Clinical Laboratory Consultant.

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Rodney Cotton, MBA

Rodney Cotton, MBA is an entrepreneurial thought leader in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry who is known for his holistic perspective, bias for action in the face of challenges, and commitment to agile processes.

Rod is an independent director for Orchard Software, a private equity-backed health technology company owned by Francisco Partners; an advisory board member to Flo2 Ventures, a venture capital-backed healthcare and health equity accelerator; and a member of the board of directors and three board committees (Audit, Compliance & Finance; Governance & Equity; and Quality of Care) for Community Health Network.

He built a successful career at Roche spanning more than two decades and culminating in the role of SVP, Head of Strategy & Transformation, and Chief of Staff to the CEO for Roche Diagnostics, the North American headquarters of the world’s largest ($17B) diagnostics company.

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In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rod and his team at Roche accelerated six ground breaking products in 11 months, including the first launch of the market’s most accurate and in demand molecular diagnostic test. He also solved extraordinary challenges of product scarcity, supply chain, product allocation, and logistics to achieve accelerated global sourcing and self manufacturing in line with testing guidelines.

A frequent public speaker on health equity and other topics, Rod was named one of the Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine and one of the Top Blacks in Healthcare by He also received The Sagamore of the Wabash Award, one of the highest Indiana State honors, bestowed by Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb.

Rod holds an M.B.A. from California State University, Dominguez Hills, an M.S. in Strategic Management from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in Biological Sciences & Technology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.