So many struggling people enter our doors searching for answers to chronic mental health problems after having been told it was just all in their heads. Many other providers had advised them to accept the fact of lifelong medications and lifelong symptoms. Some of them had heard from therapists and counselors that they just had to get over it. Then we discovered that mold toxicity lay under the layers of anxiety, depression, obsessions, compulsions, insomnia, panic attacks, and other neuropsychiatric complaints. Many cry at this point of freedom, freedom from being blamed for or imprisoned by a diagnosis of “its all in your head”.
Okay, while the diagnosis by other providers is not just in the sufferer’s head, something else is in their brains, mold toxins. But so many dismiss mold as being everywhere and therefore since others don’t have the same symptoms from the same exposure, mold toxins can’t be the problem. Or they say, it is only the “black mold” that makes people sick and “just throw some bleach on it”. Reality tells us that most people do not have significant effects from mold toxins. Most does not mean all however.
Probably somewhere between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 of the general public regardless of race or ethnicity do experience some degree of effects from mold. The more commonly accepted effects include respiratory symptoms like asthma and sinus allergies. For our patients, their symptoms go behind the commonly accepted to include vague symptoms like fatigue or chronic pain or brain fog. For many, the symptoms manifest as mood disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessions, compulsions, insomnia, and panic attacks. Since so many in mainstream medicine do not recognize mold toxins as contributing to mental health, these sufferers go through years of medications with marginal benefit until they finally look beyond the conventional doctor’s advice.
Once diagnosed, patients want to understand the what’s and why’s of mold toxicity. We first explain that molds do live practically all around us, both inside and outside. We then explain that not all of these molds are problematic. Some, especially the outdoor molds just trigger allergies or have their toxins blown away by the wind without affecting anyone. On the other hand, some molds that grow on water damaged building materials can produce chemicals that harm us. If enough of these toxic molds are present and produce enough toxins in a building with inadequate ventilation, some patients can be affected. Even then, some individuals are genetically gifted with detox systems and experience little to no effects from this inside exposure. For those whose detox systems are less than adequate, such exposures can make them sick in a variety of ways.
These toxins unknowingly trapped in your home or workplace float through the air just like other volatile organic compounds. While they are actually produced by the molds to kill off other nearby molds or bacteria seeking the same water and food in the environment, their ability to evaporate and float in the air just like a Glade plug-in odor, means that we can then breathe them in. Although during a sloppy clean-up attempt they may be absorbed through the skin, the majority of their effects come through inhalation into the lungs, flowing then into the blood stream. As most are soluble in fats, they can then easily pass into the cells of just about all the tissues of our bodies.
Once in the cells and tissues, they exert various adverse effects depending on the their particular chemical properties and where they land. One of the most common and most impactful mechanisms of harm come through the immune system. The mold toxins ability to chronically activate our immune system means that mold toxic individuals live in a chronically inflamed state. This chronic inflammation leads to unwanted symptoms including mental health problems. Depending on which area of the brain becomes inflamed, different neurologic and psychiatric symptoms ensue.
To overcome these mold toxic effects your brain and life, at the very least you must escape from the mold exposure. For a few, this escape leads to an impressive recovery and release from the grip of their mental illness in weeks to months. For others, the symptoms lingers until they get help removing the remaining toxins from their bodies and turning off the inflammation. These are the ones that come to us looking for a different answer than “its all in your head”. We tell them, “it may be in your head, but since the mold toxins don’t belong there, we can get it out of your head so you get better”.
If you are struggling with mental health issues and wonder if mold might be behind your illness, read further on our website or consider the links below describing research linking mold to neurologic and psychiatric illness. We would like to help you live a healthier more abundant life by identifying the root cause(s) of your mental health symptoms and treating them correctly.
Other Blog Articles of Interest:
“Moldy and Blood Brain Barrier” https://sanctuaryfunctionalmedicine.com/topics/mold/moldy-and-blood-brain-barrier/
“Airborne Mycotoxins” https://sanctuaryfunctionalmedicine.com/topics/mold/airborne-mycotoxins-2/
“Mold in Kid’s Brains” https://sanctuaryfunctionalmedicine.com/topics/pediatrics/mold-in-kids-brains/
“Mold Can Be Depressing” https://sanctuaryfunctionalmedicine.com/topics/functional-medicine/mold-can-be-depressing/
Our Mold Focused Site:
Article in Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/holistic-psychiatry/201708/mold-toxicity-common-cause-psychiatric-symptoms
Empting, L D. “Neurologic and neuropsychiatric syndrome features of mold and mycotoxin exposure.” Toxicology and industrial health vol. 25,9-10 (2009): 577-81. doi:10.1177/0748233709348393
Hyvönen, S., et al. (2020). “Moist and Mold Exposure is Associated With High Prevalence of Neurological Symptoms and MCS in a Finnish Hospital Workers Cohort.” Safety and Health at Work 11(2): 173-177.
Potera, Carol. “Molding a link to depression.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 115,11 (2007): A536. doi:10.1289/ehp.115-a536a
Ratnaseelan, Aarane M et al. “Effects of Mycotoxins on Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Immune Processes.” Clinical therapeutics vol. 40,6 (2018): 903-917. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2018.05.004
Shenassa, Edmond D et al. “Dampness and mold in the home and depression: an examination of mold-related illness and perceived control of one’s home as possible depression pathways.” American journal of public health vol. 97,10 (2007): 1893-9. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2006.093773
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.