the impact on emotions, relationships, & mental health

"Copper toxicity often leads to the destruction of relationships. Sometimes they don't realize it because their feelings are numbed so much by the buildup of excess calcium and copper, they're not even aware that their feelings are numbed, deadened, and cut off, and they're basically operating at a cognitive level and not a feeling level, And yet cognitively they can convince themselves that they're thinking their way through their emotional life. And that's simply not the way it works, psychologically. I would venture to say that divorce courts are loaded with people who's relationships were destroyed by copper toxicity. Because the role of copper toxicity impacting the emotions, thought processes and behaviors is not understood, it leads to a lot of animosity and anger and resentment, and revenge - a lot of flare ups of the Judge psychologically - that ultimately winds up destroying the relationship."   ~ Dr. Rick Malter, Ph.D.

"Copper lowers dopamine (a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s pleasure and reward centers) and increases norepinephrine (another neurotransmitter that also functions as a stress hormone) in the brain. Imbalances in these important neurotransmitters are related to anxiety and panic disorders, depression (especially postpartum), bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism, violence, and paranoid schizophrenia." 
~Dr. William J. Walsh, PhD, Author of Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry & Heal Your Brain

Why Copper is Called the 'Emotional Mineral'

Copper, at a healthy level, helps in the release of endorphins that contribute to normal feelings of love and euphoria.  Ancient cultures made this connection, and manufacturers today of certain copper products use these concepts as a benefit in their marketing, including calling copper a 'love mineral'.  What they fail to recognize is that the human population today is far more prone to copper toxicity than it was thousands of years ago, and when copper accumulates too much in the body, the reversal of 'love' is created.  The higher that the bio-unavailable copper level becomes, especially when compounded with adrenal exhaustion, the more that feelings of love are diminished and even numbed... at the same time that the risk for depression, irritability, and even violence increase.  Excess copper indeed affects the emotions, but not in a warm, loving way that could easily be misinterpreted by the connotation of 'emotional mineral'.

The dichotomic emotional effect of copper is perfectly summarized in the book 'Energy: How it affects your emotions, your level of achievement, and your entire well-being' , an excerpt from which discussing the destructive role that copper and adrenal burnout play on relationships, is provided on the Adrenals page. 


While it's true that copper increases the 'emotional states' of humans, this should not be confused with feelings of love and positivity.  Emotions also include depression, anxiety, fear, anger, resentment, etc.  Science shows that high levels of bio-unavailable copper trigger those negative emotional states (fear, anger, irritability, etc), while at the same time deadening positive feelings of love.

"Copper toxicity has been observed in association with major psychological problems including hyperactivity,depression, attention deficit disorder,memory problems, anxiety and panic attacks, violence, and emotional deadness. ~J.Casper, L.Ac

"Anyone who becomes highly copper toxic will begin to experience a 

deadening of his/her feelings."   
~from the book 'The Strands of Health', by Dr. Rick Malter, PhD. 

Though copper mostly accumulates in the liver initially, once the liver is overburdened, copper then gets stored in secondary storage locations, including the brain. Copper stimulates the diencephalon or old 'emotional' brain (the part of the brain based on quick emotional decisions such as anger/fight and avoidance/flight). Zinc on the other hand is needed for the new brain (cortex) - the brain associated with the “higher emotions” such as reasoning, compassion and love. As zinc drops and copper rises, these higher emotions are weakened and the person tends to revert to using the old brain - triggering a wide array of negative emotions and behaviours. Copper toxicity causes "excessive emotions of many types such as anger, rage, frustration and others"[3]  Additionally, copper is largely deposited in the limbic brain which contains the hippocampus (affecting memories and emotions) - the cells of which have been shown to die when deprived of zinc.    Copper is also a key factor in PMS symptoms. We already know estrogen's intimate connection to copper as we talked about here.  As estrogen rises during the premenstrual cycle (or during pregnancy), copper rises. Not only does this lead to copper induced zinc deficiency during the luteal phase (when PMS symptoms occur), but it also in turn increases sodium. This increase of sodium increases the Na/K stress ratio, and the individual becomes more prone to short fuse reactions to even the slightest stressor.  Meanwhile, calming nutrients which can ease PMS symptoms such as zinc, magnesium, and B6 are, not coincidentally, reduced as copper increases.  Copper toxicity and magnesium deficiency (the former contributing to the latter) are the two biggest contributors to depression and anxiety. 


With the drop in the zinc level as copper increases, so too drops the level of NGF (nerve growth factor).  Elevated NGF plays an important role in early stage romantic love (first 1-6 months of a relationship)[38].  Copper toxicity occurring to a partner during this early relationship phase can really play havoc as heightening copper lowers zinc and in turn NGF, suffocating those feelings of love.   Added to this, high copper also leads to a state known as the 'calcium shell'.  This rise in the tissue level of calcium is a defence mechanism against increasing and overwhelming stress which aims to reduce the adrenal response but in doing so blocks feelings and awareness, potentially leaving one emotionally numb. 

"Mental diseases and symptoms linked to high inorganic copper levels are low-histamine schizophrenia, postpartum psychosis, depression, senility, autism and hyperactivity. Paranoia and hallucinations are prevalent in younger schizophrenics and depression in older ones." [36] 

"An adequate copper level is what gives a woman her 'warmth'.  Copper is involved with the production of estrogens - the female hormone. Women who lack 'AVAILABLE' copper tend to be cold and sometimes either secretly or openly hostile to men." ~ Chatsworth & Eck

"Excess copper in the system can cause paranoia."  ~Gabriel Cousens M.D., M.D.(H.), N.D.(h.c.), D.D.

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"The present data indicate that serum copper is a 'trait marker' (remains constant regardless of successful treatment) of unipolar depression." [41]

"Sequentially, you get higher and higher and higher levels of copper concentration, which now will affect brain capacity, processing, and thinking and make anxiety and depression worse. This is what we see in post-partum depression and in post-partum psychosis.  Many times, you hear the stories about women who have shot their husbands and drowned their children, et cetera. If you notice, most of these women have had multiple children, usually three to four, sometimes even five, before these events have occurred. These women were copper-toxic females who could not get rid of copper, it affected their brain functioning, their nerve-conduction and in actuality caused a huge electrical short-circuiting of mental processes.  We’d be amazed at the knowledge of how many individuals who are in prison systems are there really because of a poor detoxification process involving copper."  

~Dr. Albert Mensah

"...as a person's stress level increases and intensifies, s/he is more likely to develop a calcium shell, especially if s/he is in a constant highly stressful situation," [ie: demanding job, intense academic pressure...] "This is because, under stress, a person tends to lose magnesium and zinc from their cells and tissues. As magnesium is lost from cell and tissue storage, more soft tissue calcification is likely to occur and the Cal/Mg ratio will increase. These mineral changes lead to increased muscle tension, more unstable blood sugar levels, diminished awareness of one's feelings, and lower energy levels. Depression and anxiety may also increase in frequency and intensity. Since zinc antagonizes copper, a drop in zinc allows copper and calcium to increase even more."
~'The Strands of Health',  by Dr. Rick Malter, Ph.D

The Cortisol - Oxytocin - Dopamine - Serotonin - GABA Connection

A high copper level induces stress, anxiety, and fears. When a stressor happens that brings up some past emotional pain, cortisol is triggered to help us do whatever is necessary to avoid that pain again. With proper rationalizing, we are able to tell which current 'dangers' are real, and which aren't (most aren't - our current fear is almost always a reflection of some past programming projected on to some future event that hasn't even happened).  Under normal conditions, oxytocin steps in to regulate these bad feelings while the (neo)cortex part of our brain rationalizes that the triggered fear or anxiety is not real...and we get back to life as normal without over-reacting.  This isn't the case however when copper levels become high (or during detox) - fears from the past are brought to the surface, and the neocortex is weakened and the brain's ability to determine if the fear is real or not is compromised. The natural response may then be to run away from whatever or whoever even innocently triggered that past emotional pain.

As copper builds up higher and higher, the adrenals get weaker and cortisol production then slows. When cortisol production is low, especially near adrenal burnout, you are 'constantly going into hypoglycemia, which can result in depression, irritability, mood swings, poor concentration, poor memory, dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness and many more unpleasant effects.'(*)   Subsequently, when adrenal function is jump-started through an aggressive detox protocol, cortisol production once again rises. In addition to the diminished feelings of romantic 'love' and compassion brought on by the calcium shell and neocortex, the newly heightened cortisol level kills memories and emotions even further, all of which can profoundly lead to relationship issues and emotional changes. 


Oxytocin, known as the 'love hormone' or 'cuddle hormone' is important for behaviours including sexual arousal, recognition, trust, and bonding. As stress goes up (internally caused by rising copper (and other toxins) and weakening adrenals), combined with external stressors, our bodies in time become more and more oxytocin deficient. This means that ​as copper toxicity builds and the adrenals become exhausted, oxytocin levels generally drop, and the sexual arousal, recognition, trust and bonding that once existed between partners can become diminished.  Symptoms of oxytocin deficiency can include generalized depression, heightened anxiety, social isolation, mistrust, resistance to intimacy affection and relationships, phobias, panic attacks, and sleep difficulties to name a few.   Meanwhile, other neurotransmitters also come into play…

"It is well understood that neurotransmitters play a role in psychiatric conditions... when copper is elevated,  dopamine levels decrease and norepinephrine levels rise. Having these neurotransmitters out of balance can result in a whole range of problems including anxiety, panic, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD, and autism."   
~Courtney Snyder, MD, Psychiatrist

"The main hormone that mediates stress response is cortisol which is directly toxic to nerve cells in the part of the brain (the hippocampus) that mediates memory and emotion - it kills them."   

~ Dr. Andrew Weil

"Copper also affects neurotransmitter production. It actually pushes the conversion of dopamine, that lovely, warm, fuzzy feeling neurotransmitter into that excited neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. So, all that norepinephrine cause the heart to race, it can cause anxiety, it can later cause depression and it can later cause adrenal fatigue." 

~Dr. Albert Mensah

Serotonin is a calming neurotransmitter and helps control anxiety.   Serotonin receptors seem to be directly involved in the normal function of hippocampus in mood regulation and memory formation.  Serotinin also influences sexual desire and some social behaviour.  The problem is that copper oxidizes serotonin and therefore stops it from doing its job.  Furthermore, if serotonin is under-methylated, serotonin becomes inactive and further depression ensues.  Zinc, B6 and Vitamin C are all essential for serotonin production, yet all three of these nutrients are reduced in the presence of excess copper. Consider the link between depression and low zinc:

'A meta-analysis published in December 2013 in Biological Psychiatry analyzed 17 studies and found that depressed people tended to have about 14 percent less zinc in their blood than most people do on average, and the deficiency was greater among those with more severe depression.' [58] 

GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) is one of the body’s most inhibitory neurotransmitters, helping to maintain calm and relaxation -  balancing against glutamate (the body’s main excitatory neurotransmitter).  Excess copper inhibits the conversion of glutamate into GABA, resulting in high glutamate levels; this in turn can lead to symptoms such as impaired speech, high irritability, anxiety, aggressiveness, GI inflammation, and neuronal destruction.  It should be noted that depression has long been associated with deficiencies in serotonin, dopamine, and GABA [39] ...all of which are impaired by excess copper

[Consider this information (and copper's link to estrogen and the Pill) in the staggering increase in the rates of depression and use of anti-depressants. Anti-depressant usage has increased 65% between 1999 - 2014 [57], with twice as many women on the medication as men.  And not surprisingly, the biggest benefit to the medication is the placebo effect. Anti-depressants further throw off the body's delicate mineral balance, and certainly do nothing to teach about, address, or rectify the copper connection.]

the damaging toll on relationships

"I could see in myself the severity of my moods, Jekyll and Hyde, but occasionally glimpses appeared of the happy fun person I was, but it too, was forced.   Arguments between my husband and I became unbearable.. He told me certain things that in my mind I thought he was saying out of spite and to hurt me, ones that I just read in your article.. I'd become defensive, angry and honestly believed that he was trying to make me crazy because he resented me being sick all the time.. I completely shut down my feelings towards him, as after 13 years together I though this was just the path of the relationship. And many times was "ready" to let go of the relationship... But I now have hope that it's not just a relationship that has run its course.. It's just this horrible thing in my body.  But still in my mind I find that hard to understand, how can something like copper toxicity make me feel so shut off and take all logic out of the equation?" ~M.A

Such experiences are extremely common, with more women sharing their stories here. Even independent of each other, copper toxicity and adrenal burnout both individually can lead at more advanced stages to withdrawal, apathy, irritability, anxiety, memory problems, and depression. When both are experienced together, the results are amplified, and it can be devastating on relationships. The highly copper toxic individual shuts down emotionally (compounded by the calcium shell, and especially even more so if adrenal burnout occurs). Often, the patient is not even aware of what their feelings really are. The lack of energy reduces awareness to the true extent of the problem.  In fact, many of the symptoms of copper toxicity at this stage are the same as those commonly seen with adrenal burnout, and the issue is just as much about the burnout as it is with the copper. If both are present, the symptoms can be amplified. It is highly improbable for a person who has experienced adrenal burnout, especially when copper toxicity is also at play, to be acting as one's true self emotionally in the period following burnout.  Too many factors are acting together to make a person shut down. This short discussion from the 1985 "Energy" book provides an excellent starting point in understanding the relationship withdrawal commonly occurs during adrenal burnout.  The effects of copper and the calcium shell then add to this withdrawal.


Sexually the person is not only mentally, but also biologically forced to withdraw when burnout occurs - the body is trying to preserve its energy and so the sex hormones, being not as critical, are put on the back burner. It can seem to the patient that they no longer desire their partner, not understanding that this feeling is simply a survival mechanism and not their true self. The closer and more intense the relationship, and the more intense the copper-induced burnout, the more intense the opposing negative withdrawal reaction often is toward that person. Relationship OCD is paranoia become common.  Many of the stories and cases here underscore this change in personality and damage to relationships.   Forums across the internet (such as this one) are also filled with stories of how the Pill and IUD have devastated relationships.  Is it not a tragedy that a product such as the Pill or IUD, designed to bring people closer together, is effectively contributing to tearing those same people apart!


Unless this connection is properly understand, a person can very easily misinterpret their increasing sexual and emotional withdrawal from their partner (examples below) as a relationship issue, rather than a consequence created by adrenal burnout and the emotional cataract created by heightened copper and calcium. 

In Phase C of Adrenal Exhaustion, the body can become extraordinarily sensitive to stressors. Mundane activities may act as triggers in this phase while they normally do not behave as triggers in early stages of Adrenal Fatigue… The first symptoms to show up usually represent the organ system to be turned off first as it is not required for basic survival. Reproduction is considered a luxury and not a vital function when survival is at stake. Libido as a result is lowered. Sex drive becomes non-existence.  ~ Dr. Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M.,

"A tired person is fearful, and an exhausted couple is more prone to doubt each other. One partner wonders ‘Will she (or he) always love me as I am?’ and the other is thinking the same. As the fatigue settles in, the joy goes out of being together. You get so tired, you don't want to be touched and you don't enjoy touching - much less lovemaking. You can get so on edge that just the turning of the pages of the daily newspaper or the squeaking of a chair can irritate you. You are so tired you can't enjoy anymore the little kindnesses you used to do for each other. You get too exhausted to even do them, and when totally exhausted, to even care.
Apathy replaces joy, and life becomes boring. People start wondering if they really are meant for each other. They wonder what happened to the original feelings that got them together. Fatigue and exhaustion can do all of this and more. It can help destroy a marriage that should have lasted forever."
~ Colin and Loren Chatsworth, with Dr. Paul Eck

“Since copper raises the hair and tissue calcium level, women, in particular, with very high copper levels or hidden copper on their hair analyses, often lose interest in sex.  Their energy declines and the body can become a bit “numb” because excessive tissue calcium tends to render the nervous system less sensitive.” ~Dr. Lawrence Wilson

caution while detoxing

Not only can relationships be challenged due to rising fatigue and the calcium shell as copper accumulates, but the process of detoxing can be equally damaging to a partnership.  It is known, with any kind of detox, that symptoms get worse before they improve. Copper detoxing is no different. However, the negative impact of a copper detox can be greatly diminished when:

  1. The detox is done slowly and gently over months / years
  2. HTMA is used to monitor progress and stress response
  3. Counsel is given to the individual beforehand educating the patient on the potential psychological reactions that may occur.

When these steps are not taken, the outcome may not be a positive one. The untrained practitioner will typically attempt to detox copper by boosting the adrenals and administering zinc. However, giving EITHER too much zinc or too much adrenal support too quickly (ESPECIALLY in a person with adrenal exhaustion) will worsen the detox effect and psychological reactions.  With adrenal exhaustion, the body is too weak to process the toxins being released through such support, and without adequate detox pathways being opened first, the mobilized copper gets redistributed in the body, often raising the load in the brain and amplifying psychological reactions.  This is addressed further on the Healing page, as well as exemplified in the 1995 article to the right.  Copper antagonists such as zinc and manganese (as well as stress) can cause copper to come out of storage which can then cause symptoms such as anxiety, OCD, mood swings, and much more.  In terms of relationships, it's important to understand the powerful negative role that an improperly advised detox can play on a person, and on a relationship.  
​During the process of detoxing (and as toxins are released from the liver), old fears, traumas, and relationship hurts may surface.  These can be projected onto the current relationship - at the same time that negative emotions are amplified, the re-stimulated adrenals increase the Na/K stress ratio and in turn reactions to the slightest stressor, the rationalizing neocortex is weakened, anxieties rise, and feelings of romantic love are erased by the numbing 'emotional cataract' effect of the calcium shell.  A need to ‘get away’ can take over the mind.

"Many people who have been out of balance for years have been unable to express their negative emotions, such as resentments, fears, anxieties, angers, and hatred. They have stored all of their emotional hostilities and anger in their tissues in the same way that money is stored in a bank.  When some people start to improve, many of their hidden repressions and hostilities can come pouring out.  This could possibly strain a loving relationship.  The best thing to so when this happens to a close loved one is to just let it pass and sit out the storm."  ~Eck & Chatsworth (1985 'Energy')

"Copper is one of those bad boys when it is leaving your system....if it’s coming out too quickly. You can indeed control the rate at which elements like copper are removed from the system through detoxification. And that’s extremely important, because believe me, you don’t want somebody or a family member calling you saying, “What did you do to my wife? She is not the same person and…” I’ve had that happen before. 

So we have to be very careful."  

~Dr. Albert Mensah

The Chemistry of Relationships as Reflected in Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (TMA)

The article to the right (click here to open as full PDF file) was written back in 1995 by Registered Dietician Renee Nataro who, through hTMA research, quickly came to understand the characteristics of copper toxic individuals. The characteristics she describes are common when copper is mobilized ('dumped') too quickly causing the Na/K stress ratio to rise, as well as the pseudo-inversion of Na/K that reflects the intracellular loss of potassium that can also occur during an intense copper dump. 



A silent link to alzheimer's

Given the evidence, we suggest to those researching Alzheimer's that copper may be a key player.

As of 2017, the Alzheimer's Association website continues to state "At this time, there is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease".  While there may be no 'cure', there is certainly enough evidence to suggest that progression can be delayed - if medical research chooses to look at the contribution copper plays in this epidemic, and if the public becomes educated on daily lifestyle influences that are affecting their copper levels. Unfortunately, just as with the Pill or IUD, discussion of copper is almost all but ignored, in this case as evidenced by not one single mention of copper in this otherwise excellently written and comprehensive 84 page report on A.D....even though we know the following:

We know that copper antagonizes zinc, and we know that zinc deprivation causes cell death in the hippocampus, where memories are recorded. “In Alzheimer's disease, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to be affected, leading to the confusion and loss of memory so commonly seen in the early stages of the disease.” ~Dr. Ananya Mandal.   At the same time, excess copper causes neuronal toxicity while zinc deficiency causes neuronal damage [47].  Alzheimer’s is characterized by degeneration and/or trauma of neuronal structures [48].


Dr. Rashid Dean, PhD, a research professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurosurgery, has shown in his study that “over time, copper’s cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain.  Amyloid beta is a main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients” [49].   Amyloid beta is a small protein clipped off a larger one by the beta secretase enzyme.  The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal concluded in 2013 that “Copper appears to be one of the main environmental factors that trigger the onset and enhance the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing the clearance and accelerating the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain.” [49]


It could be argued that the rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s rates, which really is a 20th century phenomenon, loosely corresponds with the rise in rates of copper toxicity. Dr George J. Brewer, MD, offers the following, I would suggest accurate, comment: “Scientists these days like to talk about the complexity of AD. They formulate drugs or agents designed to lessen the amyloid-beta burden in the brain or to attack biochemical aspects of the neurofibrillary tangles. [I have] long suggested there is a simpler line of attack: prevent AD by eliminating ingestion of inorganic copper.  This concept, however, has yet to enter the conversation of the scientific community…It is our belief that the leaching of copper from copper plumbing into the drinking water is a major causal factor in the AD epidemic.” [50]   To further corroborate this, Sparks and Schreurs, in a published 2003 study [51, 52], found that the addition of only 0.12 parts per million of copper to the drinking water of rabbits greatly enhanced the AD-type pathological changes in the brain, along with marked decrease in performance of previously learned tasks.  They also later found that copper in drinking water at even 1/10 the U.S. EPA limit destroyed the blood-brain barrier receptors (LRP receptors) responsible for clearing amyloid beta from the brain, resulting in the hallmark accumulation of amyloid plaques.


"Alzheimer’s Disease, just as with depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and other emotional and mental health issues, could be much better understood if we started looking at the connection they share with mineral imbalances, specifically copper. Of course there can be other causes to these conditions as well, this fact being acknowledged. However, given the very clear connection that copper toxicity plays in all these conditions, it seems ludicrous how quickly damaging pharmaceuticals are prescribed without even giving consideration that a simple mineral imbalance may be the cause." ~ Rick Fischer

"The web of evidence tying ingestion of inorganic copper as a causal factor in AD is strong, and includes AD animal model data where trace amounts of inorganic copper in the drinking water markedly worsened AD, human studies where ingestion of copper supplements, along with a high fat diet, is associated with a marked loss of cognition, human studies showing a markedly higher mortality in elderly women ingesting copper supplements, as well as other data. It is likely that a high fat diet works in conjunction with ingestion of inorganic copper to increase the risk of AD."  ~Dr. George J Brewer, MD

"A large body of clinicopathological, circumstantial, and epidemiological evidence suggests that the dysregulation of copper is intimately involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease." [53]

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