Mary Ackerley: The Brain on Fire: The role of toxic mold in triggering psychiatric symptoms
The following is an excerpt from an article you can find here.
If you have a number of somatic complaints that a doctor cannot find any physical basis for — or even if they can find a reason for why you have back pain or other problems — and you have any sort of sad mood or don’t want to be out with others, you’re going to be diagnosed as depressed or anxious and given an antidepressant…
…But what I want to distinguish here is something called “sickness behavior” that’s very similar to what we diagnose now in DSM-5 as depression. It’s well known in the animal literature.
Many of you own a cat. Have you ever had the following experience? You go to feed your cat and you call her. You don’t see her. You look at her food bowl and realize she hasn’t eaten any food in a few days. You start to get worried and look all over the house for the cat. Finally you find her in some closet you even forgot you had, way in the back. You shine the flashlight and see the eyes, and you think, “Oh, there she is.” You reach down to pet her and she hisses and backs away, further back into the corner. You bring her some food or water and she refuses it. You bring some of her little toys that usually make her happy and there’s no response.
What do you do? Do you call the cat psychic, which we have a lot of out here on the West coast? Probably not. You probably do what most people do, which is to call the vet and reach back in there with some gloves to pull her out because she’s probably pretty angry, and put her in a cat cage, and bring her in to the veterinarian to find out what’s wrong.
There’s always something wrong when a cat does that. The cat is exhibiting sickness behavior, which is associated with high cytokines. We measure it in mold illness with MMP9 and TGF-beta and C4a, in particular.
But in people, when we see the same behaviors — loss of appetite, reclusiveness, lack of pleasure in usual things, fatigue, irritability — we label that as depression.
What I find many times when talking to patients who come to me for depression is that they initially came to their doctors complaining of not feeling well, hurting, not wanting to do things, not having energy. And because nobody could find a physical basis looking at things in a very traditional way, these patients were much told, “We don’t know what’s wrong with you. This is all in your head. I think you’d better see a psychiatrist.”
I’m one of those psychiatrists people come to see. It’s a bit of a joke around here that when people finally break down and consult a psychiatrist, it’s ironic that they find the one psychiatrist who says, “No, this isn’t in your head at all. You probably have biotoxin illness.”
You can read the rest of this article here.