How Does Mold Affect Your Brain?
Does Mold Cause Depression?
The purpose of this article is to examine how mold affects the pleasure centers of the brain that manage mood and cause depression.
Symptoms of depression include the following:
- 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
Do you have any of these symptoms? If so, you may want to get your indoor air quality checked because there is both anecdotal data and scientific data that now supports the conclusion that mold can cause depression.
Mold and Depression: Anecdotal Data vs Scientific Data
Anecdotal Data Linking Mold With Depression
Data is referred to as anecdotal because it is not universally accepted by the scientific community. There are two key sources of anecdotal data:
1. Interviews with Mold Survivors.
2. The Brown University Study on Mold and Depression.
#1 Mold Survivors
An excellent resource on mold was set up by Wonder Makers Environmental in March of this year. The goal of Mold Sensitized is to serve as a resource for patients, contractors, and health care professionals seeking up to date information on mold.
At MSZ, we review this site on a weekly basis because we are constantly seeking new information on mold to help our customers and most importantly educate them. One of the most interesting resources on the site is the section where they have posted interviews with toxic mold survivors.
A recurring theme with the survivors interviewed is the affect that mold has on their moods leading to depression and hopelessness. The words of the survivors provide significant evidence that mold affects their brains negatively:
“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)
#2 University Study At Brown University Linking Mold With Depression
The other major data cited as anecdotal linking mold and depression is the 2007 study by researchers at Brown University.
Led by epidemiologist Edmond Shenassa, the researchers analyzed data from 5,882 adults in 2,982 households.
Using data collected by the World Health Organization in 2002 and 2003, the interviewers visited homes in eight European cities.
Residents were asked a series of questions to assess symptoms of depression, including appetite loss, self-esteem, and sleep disturbances. The researchers also visually inspected the residences for mold, looking for spots on the wall and ceilings.
The study concluded that cases of depression were 40% higher with people that lived in homes that had visible mold compared to those that did not have visible mold.
This study is considered anecdotal because it was based solely on a question and answer survey and visual clues of mold. In short, no actual air quality testing, swab or tape samples of the mold were taken to verify in a lab. Because of this, critics view this as a subjective study.
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.”
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:
1. How healthy is the air quality of my home?
2. Does my home have mold?
If you suspect that your depression is caused by poor indoor air quality and mold, contact MSZ so that we can do a formal mold inspection and indoor air quality tests. Peace of mind is just a phone call away, 1-403-978-7978!
— MSZ Restoration (@mszrestoration) October 15, 2015