Just the mere sight of mold can put a pit inside some people’s stomachs. Knowing what I do about mold, I get a pinch of panic when it’s sighted. Where else has it spread? How did it get here? Has it grown in places I’m not checking? That is my own fear-induced anxiety speaking. But what if I told you we are now finding out that clinically diagnosed anxiety and depression can actually be caused by exposure to toxic mold? New studies are bringing light to this VERY topic and research is pointing to the fact that toxins from mold are not JUST causing external allergy-type flare ups. I want to share with you the studies and researchers that are behind the idea that toxic mold affects your mental health.
To start, you must understand that exposure to toxic mold causes an inflammation response in your body. This is why people can be in such pain when their body is being affected by toxic mold. What we are finding now is that the inflammation is not only in the bodies joints and nervous system, but also affecting the brain. Dr. Mary Ackerly, MD of Tuscon, Arizona shares in this article on Paradigm Change that inflammation from biotoxins, such as mold, cause anxiety and depression. And one study shwe discusses showed the level of depression was 30% - 40% higher in homes that were visibly moldy. This same low-grade inflammation of the brain is found in suicide victims. It all stems back to the fact that toxic mold affects your mental health. And in the cases that Dr. Ackerly discusses, the effect it has is enough to trigger a response of depression, anxiety, severe brain fog and confusion.
After a round of process of elimination to find the source of depression, Dr. Ackerly asked the woman’s husband (who had been suffering from an untreatable lung disease) if there had been any known water damage around their home. He told her there had in fact been a large water leak in their garage just before she had been diagnosed with depression. They were tight on money at the time and he opened up the garage ceiling himself to find a large area of black mold. He repaired it himself, not taking care to remove the mold properly or do a proper remediation.
Dr. Ackerly prescribed her Cholestryamine (a binding agent that helps remove toxins such as those from mold from the body) and they saw a marked improvement in her patient. The patient’s husband also realized his lung disease had developed shortly after the exposure to the mold and was able to seek treatment and recover.
Dampness & Mold Related to Depression
A study done in 2007 by Dr. Shenassa of Brown University in Europe brought attention to the fact that toxic mold affects your mental health. They surveyed data from 8 European cities and gave a dampness and mold score to each home. This was based on resident and inspector reported data within each dwelling. The residents were then evaluated multiple times over a period of time to determine their mental wellness in regards to depression.
Oddly enough, Dr. Shenassa and his team were out to disprove this exact link existed, but instead found there was a definite connection between these damp and moldy homes and the mental health of it’s residence. Even though other circumstances would change within the residents’ lives, the depression symptoms remained as long as they were in the moldy environment. They found that one of the factors attributing to the depression diagnosis is the residences perceived lack of control over their own environment as well as the physical discomforts from mold exposure (wheezing, fatigue and cold symptoms).
The other factor, however is much different. He discusses in his study that mold toxins can reduce the function of the frontal cortex. This is the part of our brain the controls our socialization as well as other things like impulse control.
He puts it best when he says, “What the study makes clear is the importance of housing as indicator of health, including mental health,” Shenassa said. “Healthy homes can promote healthy lives.” You can read the full study here.
Other Studies & Experiences
Many others have seen that toxic mold affects your mental health in various ways.
Andrea Fabry of It Takes Time talks about several of her children suffering from high-anxiety and severe brain fog during the time of their toxic mold exposure. She states her blog post about mental health and toxicity that “Emotional meltdowns became a daily part of our life.” Her children’s mental health affects from the toxic mold in their home ranged from paranoia to obsessive-compulsive disorder and personality changes to depression.
Amen Clinics shares a case study on their site that discusses the effects toxic mold can have on the central nervous system leading to things like sleep disorders, anxiety, depression and confusion. Their clinic has helped properly diagnose patients dealing with these central nervous system problems. They note in their blog post about the topic how unfortunate it is that doctors will never ask about water damage or leaks in a home when it is a very serious thing to consider.
Hennepin County Medical Center in my very own Minneapolis, Minnesota, found that individuals with environmental allergies (such as mold toxins) have increased depression symptoms during these “allergy” flare ups. This they attribute the fact that toxic mold affects your mental health. The full study is here.
Neurobehavioural Health Services performed a study in 2003 linking moderate to severe depression to moldy living and working environments. They also linked adjustment disorder, acute stress and post traumatic stress to toxic mold exposure. Their studies concluded that toxic mold causes hypoactivation of the frontal cortex leading the impairments similar to a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).
As you can see there is a plethora of information available to us and studies showing that the environment in which we live in can most certainly affect our bodies. Specifically, these studies show that toxic mold affects your mental health. If you’re suspicious that your home has water damage or toxic mold growing within it and it’s affecting you or someone in your house, it’s important to seek out proper testers, remediators and physicians who can help you and your house heal from this invasion.
Get more information in our Complete Toxic Mold Bundle, which includes a special download regarding your health and mold.
I am a Certified Professional Home Inspector and Certified Building Biologist through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and International Institute for Building Biology. I have trained with Internachi as well as the Water Quality Standards Academy and the EPA.