One school of thought maintains that mold toxicity can lead to inflammation and, in some people, manifest as depression.
Whether or not mold is linked to mental health symptoms, such as depression, is a rather controversial subject in medicine.
Some research suggests that people living in homes with mold have higher rates of depression. Other research argues that there’s no real evidence for this link and that the whole “toxic black mold” fear can be blamed on media hype.
Looking at both sides of the argument can help you better understand each side’s reasoning and allow you to make a more informed opinion.
In general, mold is a type of fungi that plays a vital role in our environment. Mold breaks down dead organic materials like leaves and wood and returns important nutrients to the environment.
Mold thrives in warm, damp, and humid environments. In homes, food sources for mold often include:
- backing paper on drywall
- carpet glue
Any area with organic materials and relative humidity above
Many types of mold are a blackish color, but when people talk about “black mold” or “toxic mold,” they are usually referring to Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum).
The idea behind “mold toxicity” is that mycotoxins — toxic compounds naturally produced by certain types of fungi — can lead to an inflammatory reaction in vulnerable people.
Depending on which medical professional you talk with, mold could be a significant risk to mental health or virtually no risk.
Many holistic and integrative medicine professionals believe that mold toxicity may be behind some cases of:
- chronic fatigue
- irritable bowel
- histamine intolerance
- leaky gut
In contrast, conventional medicine doesn’t recognize such a link. But conventional doctors recognize mold as a significant cause of allergies and respiratory illness in vulnerable people.
The researchers found that people who lived in homes with mold were 34%-44% more likely to have depression than those not living in homes containing mold. Even after accounting for other important factors.
The results surprised even the researchers, who’d set out to disprove the link between mold and depression. A conclusion that a few smaller studies had found.
They believed once they statistically accounted for factors, such as crowding and feeling a loss of control over one’s environment, the link between mold and depression would disappear. But the findings held strong.
Other mental health conditions affected by black mold
Mold toxicity is believed to contribute to a wide spectrum of mental health symptoms, including brain fog, anxiety, or concentration difficulties.
- cognitive and neurological difficulties
The findings show that of the 112 participants with CFS, 93% had one mycotoxin present in their urine. Almost 30% had two or more mycotoxins.
In 2016, Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, a leading expert in integrative medicine, wrote a
In the paper, Pizzorno writes that “there clearly is a portion of the population, the size of which is currently unknown, who experience neurological and/or immunological damage from mold toxicity. “
In a vastly different finding on mold toxicity, a 2017 review suggests there’s no evidence of a link between mold exposure and autoimmune disease. They blame the fear of mold as “media hype.”
The authors write “There is no scientific evidence that exposure to visible black mold in apartments and buildings can lead to the vague and subjective symptoms of memory loss, inability to focus, fatigue, and headaches that were reported by people who erroneously believed that they were suffering from ‘mycotoxicosis’.”
It’s believed that an inflammatory reaction to mold can result in the following symptoms:
- brain fog
- poor memory
- mood swings
If you visit a doctor who practices holistic or alternative medicine — and they believe your depression is caused by mold — they may use natural binders, such as charcoal or clay to trap the mycotoxins. Allowing them to be excreted.
You might also be given probiotics or antifungals.
In contrast, if you see your primary care doctor for depression, it’s unlikely they’ll consider mold a potential cause.
A conventional doctor won’t typically consider mold as a cause of illness because of the following:
- There’s no gold standard testing for mold.
- There are very few human studies linking mycotoxins to human health.
- There’s no standardized treatment for mold toxicity.
- Symptoms appear very differently in clients.
- Not everyone exposed to mycotoxins will have a reaction.
It’s important to treat the mold in your home. Bleach or a solution of baking soda and vinegar is suggested for home removal. It’s important to wear safety equipment such as:
- a respirator
- a long-sleeved shirt
But if the mold is too severe to remove by yourself, you might need to reach out to professional mold testers and removers.
Bringing a dehumidifier into your home can also help reduce the humidity that allows mold to thrive and colonize.
Mold toxicity is believed to be an inflammatory reaction to mycotoxins, the toxic compounds emitted from the mold.
In vulnerable people, mold toxicity can present as a syndrome with many symptoms, from headaches to fatigue to depression.
If you have depression, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional to discuss different types of treatment.
If you see visible mold in your home, consider taking action to remove it from your environment. Whether or not it can cause depression, mold is confirmed to cause other health problems.