Why Does Mold Cause Depression?
Earlier we published an article that examined why Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) could affect cognitive and motor skills of people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
Not surprisingly, mold not only has an impact on dopamine in the brain, but can also impact the part of the brain that regulates mood.
This is the reason that many people exposed to mold suffer from symptoms of depression:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions;
- Fatigue and decreased energy;
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness;
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism;
- Insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping;
- Irritability, restlessness;
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex;
- Loss of pleasure in life;
- Overeating or appetite loss;
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment;
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings;
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
The purpose of this article is to provide you with a basic understanding of scientific and anecdotal data linking mold with depression.
Similar Symptoms For CIRS and Depression
Since 2011, I have been researching and writing about mold, asbestos, and other indoor air quality issues. During this research, I have had the opportunity to network and interact with many mold survivors that I met through social media channels. Fortunately, many individuals have been willing to share their stories through formal interviews, many of which are published by Wonder Makers Environmental on their website dedicated to creating a resource on mold, www.moldsensitized.com
A key conclusion that can be gained from these interviews: mold does have an impact on the brain. In the words of the survivors:
“My ears were ringing and it felt as if my head was about to explode.” (Sandy Wolfe: Mold Survivor)
“I had anxiety, brain fog, memory and cognition problems, difficult concentrating and speaking.” (Beth Jarret: Mold Survivor)
“I developed chronic headaches and migraines, fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, memory issues, and mood swings.” (Mary DeBoer: Mold Survivor)
“I had blurry vision, insomnia, rage, anxiety, panic attacks, ringing ears, twitching muscles, hallucinations, dizzinesss, and nightmares.” (Amy Nix: Mold Survivor)
“The first symptom that alerted me that something was wrong was the sensation of crawling on my skin along with ice pick/pinprick pain in random places. Shortly after, I noticed that I had the inability to recollect words, slurry speech, memory loss, and an overwhelming fatigue. Other symptoms included vision disturbances, irritability and severe depression.” (Hilesca Hidalgo: Mold Survivor)
“I had burning eyes, headaches, pain in my arms and legs, balance issues, impaired cognitive abilities, and vision issues.” (Kelli Hamilton: Mold Survivor)
All of these survivors suffered from a condition known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). Listed below are the 37 symptoms associated with CIRS.
- Muscle Cramps
- Unusual Pain
- Ice Pick Pain
- Light Sensitivity
- Red Eyes
- Blurred Vision
- Sinus Problems
- Shortness of Breath
- Abdominal Pain
- Joint Pain
- Morning Stiffness
- Memory Issues
- Focus/Concentration Issues
- Word Recollection Issues
- Decreased Learning of New Knowledge
- Skin Sensitivity
- Mood Swings
- Appetite Swings
- Sweats (especially night sweats)
- Temperature Regulation or Dysregulation Problems
- Excessive Thirst
- Increased Urination
- Static Shocks
- Metallic Taste
Comparing the list of CIRS symptoms with the symptoms of depression listed earlier, it is clear that there are many similar symptoms associated with both conditions. This is likely the reason why many people sick from mold are unable to get proper treatment because they are diagnosed with a depressive disorder as opposed to a health condition caused by exposure to mold.
The biggest challenge mold survivors face is the lack of empathy and knowledge from doctors who do not understand mold sickness. Tragically, some survivors are even told that their sickness is all in their head:
“The doctors told us there was nothing wrong with her as she lay screaming in pain, convulsing on the table. The next ER, at a different hospital told us the same thing. The specialist we were sent to said ‘There is nothing wrong with her, I’ve read the reports. I won’t see her until she has a neuro-psych work-up.” (Debra Rogers: Mold Survivor)
Brown University Study on Mold and Depression
In 2007, researchers at Brown University released a study showing a link between mold and depression.
The study, led by epidemiologist Edmond Shenassa, analyzed data from 5,882 adults in 2,982 households.
The data was collected by the World Health Organization in 2002 and 2003. Interviewers visited 1000s of homes in eight European cities and asked residents a series of questions to assess symptoms of depression, including symptoms of low appetite, self-esteem, and sleep disturbances. They also tried to visually verify the presence of mold by looking at spots on the wall and ceilings.
What they found was that symptoms of depression were up to 40% higher for residents living in visibly moldy households than for residents that did not have mold in their homes.
Based on this survey, they concluded that there is a definite connection between damp, moldy homes and depression.
The studies author, further concluded that:
“Physical health, and perceptions of control, are linked with an elevated risk for depression, and that makes sense. If you are sick from mold, and feel you can’t get rid of it, it may affect your mental health. Healthy homes promote healthy lives.”
Despite the findings of this study, many in the scientific community consider this an anecdotal study because the researchers did not take actual air samples or swab samples of the suspected visual mold. Because of this, the conclusions of this study have been questioned.
Scientific Data Linking Mold With Depression
In her article, The Brain on Fire: The role of toxic mold in triggering psychiatric symptoms, Dr. Mary Ackerley explores the scientific research linking mold with brain disorders, including depression.
Unfortunately, one of the common symptoms of depression is suicide. As stated by Ackerley:
“I have patients who will walk into moldy places and their first sign that something is wrong is that they start thinking about suicide. I see that fairly frequently.”
According to Ackerley and other experts she cites, people feel depressed when exposed to mold because toxins released by mold, mycotoxins, pass directly into the brain.
Mold enters the body through the nose and eyes via the olfactory neurons which directly communicate with the brain.
Once the toxins enter the brain, it causes neuroinflammation which has a negative impact on the frontal cortex of the brain, the pleasure center that rules emotion, leading to depression.
Since Ackerley and other scientists believe that mold can cause depression, they have developed treatment protocols that focus on detoxing the patient.
The first step before treatment is to verify if mold is in fact the cause of sickness, which is accomplished through blood tests and the visual contrast sensitivity test developed by Dr. Shoemaker.
The second step is to begin the detox process. Ackerley has successfully used the drug cholestyramine (CSM), to reduce symptoms by up to 75%, provided the patient removes themself from the toxic environment.
She also recommends her patients to adopt a low carb and low sugar diet and the addition of supplements such as fish oil, magnesium, turmeric, probiotics, and vitamin D.
Mold Does Affect Your Brain Causing Depression!
According to Ackerley, the prevalence of mold induced depression could be quite high:
“One fascinating thing I’d like to point out: Dr. Shoemaker has often said that it’s about 25% of the population is susceptible to biotoxin-associated illness. When you add up who’s been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, it too adds up to about 25% of the population. Is that a coincidence? Perhaps. But it’s a very interesting coincidence to me.”
With respect to the evidence linking the relationship between mold and depression, it is quite clear that mold does affect the brain and this is confirmed by scientific data, further strengthened by the anecdotal data offered by the Brown University study and the mold survivors who have come forward and documented their symptoms.
How prevalent is mold sickness? According to Dr. Scott McMahon, MD, who appeared in the MOLDY documentary:
“Possibly every doctor…is treating mold illness, and they just don’t realize it.”
If you suffer from depression, here are two questions that you need to ask:
- How healthy is the air quality of my home?
- Does my home have mold?
If you suspect that your depression is caused by poor indoor air quality and mold, contact Mold B Gone so that we can do a formal mold inspection and indoor air quality tests. Peace of mind is just a phone call away, 678-697-6267!
— Mold B Gone (@moldbgonega) November 15, 2015