Mold, Mycotoxins and Psychiatric Disorders
By Cesar Collado
While there may be some controversy with traditional physicians regarding the catastrophic impact mold and mycotoxins can have on the life of a mold sufferer, medicine has been more accepting of behavior disorders as diagnoses. As a result, many patients are treated with antidepressants, anxiolytics, and sleep medications. For mold sufferers, a psychiatric diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, or insomnia may be a misdiagnosis or wrongly attributed as the cause of other symptoms.
Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders are common conditions that can manifest in many different ways or be diagnosed in addition to other illnesses. Most general practitioners have little trouble with making these diagnoses in a primary care setting. Further, they are often diagnosed prior to investigating environmental illness. This makes for a treatment that can delay addressing the cause of the depression and illness, inflammation caused by mold and mycotoxins.
There is a significant amount of literature on depression and anxiety, often comorbid conditions. While the true cause of psychiatric illness remains elusive, it is accepted that an underlying illness, such as depression or anxiety disorders, can cause a host of physical symptoms. It is also accepted that depression can be traced to a variety of causes. Genetics and hormonal imbalances provide biological explanations. Alcohol, drug abuse, prescription drugs, and nutritional deficiencies provide behavioral causes. Stress, grief, and loss provide the most understandable of causes; however, these causes have expectations of being transient and should dispel over time. Finally, there are physical illnesses that can cause mood disorders: liver disease, thyroid problems, and cancer are examples.
Water-Damaged Homes are the Cause of Most Mold and Mycotoxin Exposures
Water-damaged homes are created by leaks or flooding that saturate building materials with moisture, or by high-humidity indoors that allows mold spores to attach to and grow on organic materials. Sometimes this growth can also occur inside of HVAC units that stay moist and are not properly maintained. While they do not cause all toxic mold exposures, the statistics tell a story of homes that often do not get remediated properly.
Building materials (manufactured wood products, gypsum and paper drywall,) furnishings (furniture, carpet, wallpaper), and belongings (often stored cardboard box storage) have a propensity to grow common indoor mycotoxin-producing molds such as aspergillus, penicillium, and stachybotrys. Learn more about water damaged homes and mycotoxins HERE.
The statistics are overwhelming and support the fact that water damage in homes is more common than believed and is rarely remediated properly with the immediate full physical removal of all mold-exposed materials and objects. This includes a lack of proper containment and contaminated materials disposal. Leaks are often repaired without the consideration of water damage. Common causes include leaky or frozen pipes, roofing leaks, flooding due to appliance failures, and water heater failure. Insulation issues compound the problem as it commonly provides absorption of moisture and an ample food source for mold. The HVAC can create moisture issues, harbor, and distribute mold. This does not include the catastrophic damage to entire geographies caused by hurricanes and flooding over the past 15 years.
A few alarming statistics1.:
- 37% of US homeowners claim to have suffered losses from water damage;
- 98% of basements will suffer some type of water damage;
- 14,000 people experience a water damage emergency each day;
- A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe loses 250 gallons of water per day;
- 10% of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons of water each day;
- There are 3 categories of water damage:
- “Clean water” from plumbing pipes;
- “Grey water” where water is exposed to some contaminants such as food in a dishwasher;
- “Black water” where water contains contaminants that can cause serious illness such as sewage, still water, or external flood water.
- Apartment statistics may be much higher due to lack of insurance coverage, unreported leaks, and the potential for water damage occurring in apartments adjacent or on lower floors that may be unreported or not acted upon immediately.
Environmental Illness and Psychiatric Disorders
With the prevalence of water-damaged homes and mold growth in homes, the link between in the environment and neuropsychiatric disorders should be considered by both patients and physicians. The challenge of treating neuropsychiatric disorders associated with mold illness is complex. Mold illness impacts several organ systems in the body including the brain. Cognitive and mood disorders may not be fully recognized as symptoms of mold illness; or alternatively, may be immediately referred to neurologists or psychiatrists. (Misdiagnosis is common due to the lack of inquiry from any physician specialty on any patient’s environmental situation.) In addition, a psychiatrist or neurologist may not take all symptoms presented by the referring physician into consideration. A pharmaceutical medication for depression, anxiety, or sleep may prescribed that may provide some symptomatic relief, but does not address the underlying problem. In addition, adverse events from hese medication can worsen cognitive symptoms.
Psychiatric and mood disorders are very common with patients that have toxic mold illness. These patients have easily understood symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, malaise, trouble thinking, infections, and respiratory problems. The illness and symptoms can also have a significant impact at home. Familial relationships often suffer, because of debilitating effects of mold illness and any person’s ability to fulfill family or work responsibilities or have normal social interactions. Thus, depression and anxiety as symptoms of mold illness are understandable. Unfortunately, they occur in addition to the chronic fatigue, sinus infections, respiratory issues, cognitive disorders, and gut issues. The mood disorders can often be lost in the time-consuming investigation of the other symptoms.
The burden to make physicians clearly recognize the symptoms of mood disorders as part of an environmental illness diagnosis falls on both the patient and the physician. Asking for a referral to a psychiatrist is often the next step if a primary care physician does not address behavior health. However, the burden to make a psychiatrist aware of mold or mycotoxin exposure will mostly fall on the patients. An environmental history is uncommon during a psychiatric evaluation. Further, knowledge and treatment of environmental illness or inflammation in rare among the specialty.
There is a subset of the psychiatric profession that deals with the entire body called Integrative and Holistic Psychiatry. These physicians are sensitive to the patient’s “body, mind, and spirit” and recognize the impact of the patient’s environment on mood and mental health. They employ conventional psychiatric medicine (medication) with alternative medicine. This can be composed of various modalities including, homeopathic medicine, psychotherapy, nutrition, body and mind strengthening, and spiritual modalities, such as meditation. The practice employs a greater investigation into the underlying factors and history which may have an impact on the mental health of a patient. While these physicians present an alternative that MAY uncover environmental factors; it is NOT standard practice.
Ultimately, there are integrative and holistic psychiatrists that address mold and mycotoxin impact on mental illness. These physicians are few and far between. They are physicians who have evolved their practices when they have either experienced or observed the impact of mold illness on depression, or have lived in areas where extreme weather makes water damage likely and correlate the two. There are also some publications recognizing the correlation of depression with dampness in homes. While a causal relationship has not been scientifically determined to date, the presence of mold or dampness and the inability or knowledge to have the home repaired properly will impact the number of depression diagnoses.
Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders and Mold
Regardless of the specialty of the physician, there is elegance in the simplicity of considering environmental factors to find the solution. The primary step for anyone suspecting mold should be the determination of whether the environment has current or previous water damage. The next step is to get out of the mold-contaminated space and get to a safe place with clean air. Because of the extreme severity of the mold illness at this stage, take nothing with you to the new place that could be contaminated with mold. This step is critical! Learn more about avoiding mold cross contamination from Catherine at Moldfreeliving.com. Having your home properly investigated and remediated must follow if you wish to return to it. A thorough environmental illness physician will eliminate mold as a cause early in the diagnostic process to avoid misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment and expenses. Read about “Taking Mold off the Table” HERE.
Because psychiatric disorders, depression and anxiety symptoms are real, even if symptomatic of mold, a physician may still decide to prescribe psychiatric medicine to address a chemical imbalance involved with the depression.
This may be more common with the community physician and psychiatrist. It is worthwhile to follow their advice and adhere to taking the medications prescribed. There is evidence that with resolving the body’s inflammation will alleviate the psychiatric conditions. Treatment of the mold illness remains imperative, and it will take time to detoxify via the body’s metabolism and excretion methods to heal. A physician prescribed detoxification protocol is an important element. This can be done by an environmental physician and not necessarily by the psychiatrist. The brain requires sleep to detoxify via the glymphatic system.
Learn more about the brain’s microscopic cleaning system, the glymphatic system HERE.
What You Can Do Now About Mold in Your Home
If you are suffering from mold illness with depression, anxiety, and sleep issues are prominent in addition to the physical symptoms of mold sickness, there are steps you can take to identify mold in your home and provide clear information to your physician:
- Testing your home with EC3 Mold Screening Test Kit plates is inexpensive and can provide evidence to further investigate for mycotoxins.
- A Mold Diagnostic Test Kit(s) by Immunolytics will provide more conclusive lab testing to identify specific species of mycotoxin producing molds.
- Prepare for your physician appointment by documenting all symptoms including mood disturbance so that your physician has a clear understanding of symptoms without relying on your memory during the limited time you have with them;
- Take this free online mold evaluation to capture your environmental, illness, physical, and home history that can be shared with your physician and mold remediators;
- Clean or fog your home with <a “mold in your home cleaning products” href=”https://microbalancehealthproducts.com/products/ec3-mold-solution-concentrate.html”>EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate to temporarily decrease the mold counts (THIS IS NOT A PERMANENT SOLUTION OR AN ALTERNATIVE TO PROPER MOLD REMEDIATION.);
- Use EC3 Air Purification Candles to eliminate airborne mold and mycotoxins in your immediate air where you spend time;
- Wash all washable clothing items, bed linens, and towels with EC3 Laundry Additive;
- Rinse daily with a nasal rinse system and CitriDrops Dietary Supplement. Thisis the most effective way to remove illness-causing mold spores and mycotoxins from your sinus mucosa;
- Do your research to identify an integrative and holistic psychiatrist that treats environmental illness, if a referral is necessary.
If you would like to share your story about mold and the mental and emotional impact it has, please comment on this article.
- “Water Damage by the Numbers.” Water Damage Defense. https://www.waterdamagedefense.com/pages/water-damage-by-the-numbers