Default, Foreclosure and the impact on physical and mental health function

By K.K. MacKinstry/LendingLies Blog

Neuroscientists have concluded that chronic stress and cortisol damage the brain.  Although there are no formal studies to date on the health ramifications of default, prolonged litigation, and post-foreclosure trauma, it would be safe to conclude that people who are exposed to chronic stress over an extended period of time are prone to mental issues like anxiety and mood disorders as well as physical illnesses.  The most common mental disorders in protracted litigation are post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression that unfortunately result in altered brain structure and chemistry.

The majority of people who sue their servicer will face a hostile judiciary and an intimidating legal system with procedural obstacles at every turn.  The homeowner will exist in an unresolved state of existence for years or decades and are thus prone to both mental and physical health consequences.

I have been fighting a servicer for 14 long years.  What I have documented with the progression of my lawsuit is a steady decline of my mental functioning, mood, and motivation with an overall deterioration of my physical health.  Although some of these changes are attributable to natural aging, I believe the stress and trauma have accelerated my rate of aging in comparison to my peers.

For over a decade, my existence has been like living with a gauntlet swinging overhead- knowing that any day the gauntlet will fall.  Every morning I wake up, I wonder if this is going to be the day. Through strategic legal maneuvering I have not yet lost my home.   However, if I prevail or if I lose is immaterial at this point- because my mental and physical health have been adversely impacted.   I will never be the same person I could have been- had I simply ignored the fraud and walked away.

Most attorneys, judges and juries simply have no concept of what it is like to live in a suspended state of litigation.   It is difficult to live when you spend your life anticipating the bank’s next move or the way the court will rule (usually in defiance of centuries old law).  Too often, attorneys representing homeowners focus on the economic injuries of their clients without understanding the life-long mental and physical health consequences clients suffer.

In a just world, foreclosure would be handled swiftly and in accordance with law.  For example, when a bank forges legal documents- the documents would be considered void and the case settled.   Unfortunately, the Rules of Court, Rules of Civil Procedure, and the application of statutory and common law doctrine do not apply to homeowners seeking relief.  Feelings of vulnerability, predation and the injustice of the system permanently alter a person’s sense of order in the world.

Since the banks are not held to the normal rules and doctrines, there are no longer customary legal protections for the homeowner.    What may have once been considered a simple contract issue often becomes a decade long battle where statute of limitations don’t matter, res judicata is applied in a prejudicial manner (but only against homeowners), and findings of fraud are ignored.  In what other type of litigation is a criminal matter like breaking and entering reduced to a “civil” matter?  It would be absurd if a husband beat his wife during divorce negotiations and law enforcement considered the crime a civil matter.  Breaking and entering is burglary and should be prosecuted as such- but law enforcement refuses to prosecute banks that instruct others to break into occupied homes.  It is no surprise why those who are subjected to the bank’s playbook suffer health consequences.

The consensus among trial judges is that nearly all foreclosures should be allowed to proceed, and that the homeowner should be dispossessed of his homestead or other property, leaving only an action for damages and by the time a homeowner loses his trial and loses his home he likely has nothing left to fight with economically, mentally or physically.

Florida attorney Neil F. Garfield says that, “Foreclosure is the equivalent in civil procedure to the death penalty in criminal procedure.”  He elaborates that, “There was also a time in which strict adherence to statutes, doctrines and rules was required in order to succeed in the foreclosure of collateral or property. This is congruent with common law and statutory doctrines dating back centuries.”  Garfield explains that the days of adherence are long over because the judiciary believes it has a responsibility to save the banks while sacrificing the homeowner.

The feeling of sitting inside a court room while the trial judge ignores basic protections of due process, statutory enactments as well as prior doctrine is a life-changing experience. The homeowner has a right to expect existing doctrine, laws and rules of procedure be strictly applied before a foreclosure sale yet millions of Americans have been denied due process with no consideration regarding how this event will affect the homeowner and their immediate family.  There is little consideration given to the psychological and physical trauma that occurs because these disorders are mostly invisible.  Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of these invisible traumas suffered by those who fight foreclosure.

Stress-related illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) trigger changes in brain structure, including differences in the volume of gray matter versus white matter, as well as the and size and connectivity of the amygdala. Researchers are just now beginning to understand exactly how chronic stress creates long-lasting changes in brain structure which affect how the brain functions.  Thus, foreclose is not a one-time event but a life-long transformation in the majority of people who are subjected to the events leading up to foreclosure, as well as the aftermath.

In a series of revolutionary experiments, Daniela Kaufer, UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology, and her colleagues, discovered that chronic stress and elevated levels of cortisol can generate more overproduction of myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons than normal. Kaufer et al published their findings in the February 11, 2014 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Chronic Stress Changes Neural Networks 

The “gray matter” of the brain is densely packed with nerve cell bodies and is responsible for the brain’s higher functions, such as thinking, computing, and decision-making. But gray matter is only half of our brain matter —the other half of brain volume is called white matter.

White matter is comprised of axons, which create a network of fibers that interconnect neurons and creates a communications network between brain regions. White matter gets its name from the white, fatty myelin sheath that surrounds the axons and speeds the flow of electrical signals between neurons and brain regions.

White matter alterations are noted in schizophrenia, autism, depression, suicide, ADHD and PTSD.  The hippocampus regulates emotions, memory and is implicated in emotional disorders that likely result from shrinkage from extended periods of acute stress.  If the average disputed foreclosure proceeds for at least five years or more, the homeowner will be subjected to thousands of days of stress, anxiety, and lost sleep resulting in brain alterations.

Researchers have also discovered that hardening pathways may be at the heart of the hyper-connected circuits associated with prolonged stress. This results in an excess of myelin—and too much white matter—in some areas of the brain. Ideally, the brain likes to trim the fat of excess wiring through neural pruning in order to maintain efficiency and streamlined communication within the brain.  However, when the brain can’t prune excess matter the brain circuitry is adversely impacted.

Cortisol Can Trigger Stem Cells to Malfunction

The ‘stress hormone’ cortisol creates a domino effect that hard-wires pathways between the hippocampus and amygdala that may create a vicious cycle by creating a brain that becomes predisposed to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight.  A homeowner under constant threat of foreclosure or continuously engaged with pleadings, motions and responses will remain in a heightened fight or flight mode.  Homeowners I have spoken with who are in foreclosure say that there are small daily triggers that cause stress surges throughout the day.  These triggers include getting the mail, checking email, or even driving by a bank with the name of the servicer.  Living in a constant state of anxiety, while wondering what the bank’s next tactic will be is a game changer.

Chronic stress has the ability to flip a switch in stem cells that turns them into a type of cell that inhibits connections to the prefrontal cortex, which would improve learning and memory, but instead lays down brain scaffolding linked to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rats who live under conditions that create chronic or acute stress fail to develop glial cells called astrocytes like they would under less stressful conditions but instead develop oligodendrocyte cells that produced myelin that sheaths newer cells.

The finding suggests a key role for oligodendrocytes in long-term and perhaps permanent changes in the brain that could set the stage for later mental problems. Chronic stress decreases the number of stem cells that mature into neurons and might provide an explanation for how chronic stress also affects learning and memory, according to the researchers.  Therefore if you have endured high levels of stress fighting for your home you could have potential mental health challenges.

Rats who have high levels of cortisol and chronic stress also have fewer neurons overall but a big increase in oligodendrocytes. This is not good news.   This excessive sheathing may have evolved to bolster the connection between the amygdala and hippocampus, which would improve fight-or-flight responses during extended periods of threat or attack but unfortunately, in a modern world, chronic stress can hijack the fight-or-flight system and backfire in daily life when you are not in physical danger.  However, being under a constant barrage of legal filings and enmeshed in a world where you don’t understand the rules can keep a homeowner hyper-vigilant of any perceived threat- even perceived threats that have nothing to do with foreclosure.

Chronic stress can have a serious impact on our physical as well as psychological health due to sustained high levels of the chemicals released in the ‘fight or flight’ response.

The sympathetic automatic nervous system (ANS) takes over after a stressful event by decreasing heartbeat and relaxing blood vessels.  Unfortunately, people with financial problems have a sympathetic ANS that remains on guard, making them unable to relax and preventing the parasympathetic system from taking over.   When this situation becomes chronic, stress-related symptoms and illnesses can follow.

Mind and body are inextricably linked and the interaction between them can produce physical changes and illness. When the brain notices a stressor, a physical reaction is triggered, and the reaction can lead to further emotional reactions as well as mental and physical damage. Issues like headaches and muscle tension are often directly caused by the physiological reactions. Many other disorders are aggravated by stress.  The most common health issues include:

Heart Problems

Over the long term, people who react more to stress have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The common stress reaction of eating comfort foods, with their accompanying fat and salt, is not beneficial to the heart either.


High Blood Pressure

Known as hypertension, this is a very common chronic disease which usually has no obvious symptoms.  Hypertension raises your risk of stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and heart attack.

Stress increases blood pressure in the short term, so chronic stress may contribute to a permanently raised blood pressure..

Susceptibility to Infection

Stress damages and suppresses the autoimmune system making you more vulnerable to infections. Allergies and autoimmune diseases (including arthritis and multiple sclerosis) may be exacerbated by stress.

Skin Problems

Stress is known to aggravate skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. It also has been linked to unexplained itchy skin rashes. Experiencing these skin problems is intensely stressful.


Continued stimulation of muscles through prolonged stress can lead to muscular pain such as backache.  Fibromyalgia and other pain disorders are frequently cited in people who endure prolonged stress and traumatic events.

Stress also is thought to aggravate underlying painful conditions such as herniated discs and repetitive strain injury. Many migraine sufferers say that stress contributes to their headaches, which can be debilitating for days.


Evidence demonstrates that chronic stress may lead to insulin-dependent diabetes in people who are predisposed to the disease. It could be that stress causes the immune system to destroy insulin-producing cells.

It is important that foreclosure attorneys, homeowners, judges and government agencies understand that foreclosure is not about simply losing a home and moving forward- foreclosure is about being held hostage in a hostile system where civil and criminal law is suspended and the homeowner has no due process or legal protections. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or believe you have post-traumatic stress disorder it is important to meet with a health professional for assistance because mental health issues often evolve into debilitating physical health issues.

If you are going to litigate a foreclosure issue you better plan on having a team of talented professionals in your corner.  Not only will you need a talented attorney but you might want to have access to a mental health professional that understand stress and trauma, as well as a good internist who can interpret any symptoms, health changes or diagnostics that serve as warning signs.




14 Responses

  1. How can anyone profess to want to make positive changes concerning the financial crimes, when continuing to use denigrating, controlling and submissive words and phrases such as deadbeat, homeowners wanting free houses. Those words and phrases, whether implied or said explicitly are designed to be oppressive and controlling by nature. Continued use of such words, continues the abuse started by the very banksters we purportedly oppose. Use of these words, and phrases continues the embarrassment and shame cycles associated with foreclosures, and only leads to the continued oppression and denigration these words were intended to cause. The fact that so many not only use such phrases and words, but defend their use shows how little we have really accomplished, as it shows we have yet to leave the starting gates as far as real changes are concerned. Are there people in this country and in society that want free homes, cars, cell phones, etc., sure, but there are far more that sit on the sidelines in fear, ashamed and embarrassed because of the denigration and oppressive nature of those types of words and phrases clearly being thrown at them. Until this cycle is broken little of significance will change in this country.


  3. My name is written all over this article like many other victims in this foreclosure nightmare. With two properties stolen I’ve been fighting this alone for over nine years. Wells Fargo stripped me of my health leaving me disabled with PTSD, anxiety, depression, dementia, skin problems, memory loss, and other physical disabilities. They destroyed my business, destroyed my relationships, destroyed my marriage, and my kids haven’t talked to me in over 5 yrs. They stole everything I built and saved. The more I learned- the more depressed I became. I’m not naive..we all know theirs corruption but WOW….I mean ..just wow. For myself discovering America is not the country you thought it was when your 60 is a mind stunning depressant.

  4. All of the above. Sick and tired of fighting a losing battle where no one cares about truth or justice.

  5. Going on 10 years. Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. No foreclosure, no mortgage payments, no life except the agony of uncertainty and hoping for a just outcome. Each case is unique. For us to get this far without a bond or a payment is based on a combination of hard work, facts, law, luck and “FRAUD”.

    It is heartening to learn someone actually got a settlement offer.

    Regarding the stress, I feel like the little Dutch Boy who stuck his finger in the Dike; 9 years ago. Could use some relief.

    To those of you who can; keep on trucking.

    Bless all who tried and more than a few who have died.

  6. Going to court 7 years, since 2010, to defend myself against foreclosure fraud has made me physically sick. Yes I have all the illness symptoms of stress but I have learned to manage.

    After about year three I caught on that this was a game and I failed to understand the rules. Once I learned that there are rules and laws that are being broken I realized I could play the game. the lawyers were coming to court with very little information and that is how I could control the power. I may not know all the law but I know what I owe and what I don’t owe that the bank is attempting to take by lying and deception.

    The bank…Wells Fargo…sends in debt collector attorney’s…..this is most of the employment for lawyers today. I discovered they really don’t know much about consumer law. Nor do I. They go into court following the standard procedures to collect a debt on a foreclosure as if the homeowner is failing to pay the debt but leave out A LIT OF DETAILS ABOUT THE TRUTH OF WHAT THEY ARE UP TO. They expect the homeowner to be intimidated and get an easy win.

    The minute I started playing the game and citing laws….basic laws that are being broken..predatory lending…deception…unfair and deceptive business practices….they usually have to take notes and go back home to figure out how to respond… we have had continuances for at least six years…this made me feel empowered and less stressed. I was fighting rather than fleeing

    I began to realize that the judge has limited knowledge of loan modification rules that are not being followed and I have to be an educator. It’s been a lengthy process.

    One of the best defenses ive found is to inform
    The judge when the bank is claiming something that is false. This forces the bank to go back and make up new excuses.

    One of the things that has helped me regain my health is knowing I am standing up for truth and due process and enlightening the court about what is going on in today’s banking world to produce profit by committing fraud The judge is learning but also is expecting me to present the legal arguements of which laws the banks are breaking and what financial damage I have suffered….it gets quite complicated and is frustrating. I get confused.

    I tackle problems one at time and show the system of wrongful practices that the bank used against me to deny a modification and deliberately keep my loan delinquent while they rack up crazy fees and high interest.

    I have a stack of documents of the letters and internal memos that support my claims
    Of fraud and I take it to court as a security blanket to show myself, and the court that I can pull out the evidence at any monument to support my claims if the bank tries to Plead
    Ignorance of wrongdoing. I’m still in my house. The fight has become a comfort knowing I am taking action to fight wrongdoing my stress symptoms have subsided. I realize it is the fear inside myself that is causing the sickness.

    I won a summary judgement denial from
    The court and now the bank is asking to settle which I consider a victory. I have prevented their foreclosure so far and their inflated claim for FDIC insurance. Their mortgage business is falling. The judge said….”you see, she isn’t your average client”. I have been truthful
    And humble in presenting my claims
    To the court….

    The bank has been denying me a modification which I can afford and added excessive interest and fees so that they can profit by inflating my loan and filing a fraud claim for FDIC insurance.

    I decided to look forward to going to court so that I can inform the judge that what the banks are doing is illegal and violates consumer protection laws on unfair and deceptive business practices. It’s very basic and I apply the same arguements cite the same violations of law that I have read in cases where judges cited the violations in cases like mine.

    we have to fight the banks and yes it’s stressful and I will never receive a reward for all the physical illness I have suffered. but if I don’t fight for justice I will be sick knowing the banks got away with stealing my home just to make extra money.

  7. Reblogged this on Deadly Clear and commented:
    Certainly, the Obama administration didn’t see or care about any studies – nor has Congress. It’s about time they stop using the American citizens as their petty cash machine. FREE the GSEs!

  8. The only upside is losing all fear, but compromising your health in the process is not worth it. We don’t regret standing up for Truth but it shouldn’t have taken four plus years and 50k+ to learn one cannot fight fraud inside of a fraudulent system. It continues today because there is still apathy and a general lack of understanding illegal fraudulent foreclosures are only one symptom of a greater corrupt fiat based fractal banking system.

  9. I have experienced all of this, plus some, within 4 yrs, I was no longer able to even do columns of expenses, etc for the lawyers,. couldn’t work on my Net Work Marketing, and my business as a Landlord, the people took complete advantage of me!! This has PUSHED me into doing much research, and NOW I am being empowered through about 6 groups that I am a part of. Started with Fraud Stoppers, wearelaw, etc… and in this process, I have become aware that I am NOT the Debtor, but the Creditor!!! I am NOW a Living Woman! With the Knowledge that the Banksters STOLE my Copyrights through my all Caps Name that I did NOT give them permission to do!! Banks can not give there own $$, so through my NAME in all Caps created the Debt., which makes me the CREDITOR! I am now taking them down, through the IRS,and other etc.. The service rs , do NOT have the legal right , with NO proof of title. They bought my Discharged {Paid in Full} mtg and trying to get me to pay it again, after they made well over a Million and a half on my NAME, and MY Assets, that I would NEVER have agreed to. HOW DAMN Dare they, and NOT pay taxes on any of the Profit, The Fraud, and Felony’s are beyond INSANE! And worse than all of this, is they are all in it together! You know who I am talking about! I am reporting all of this to all of the right organizations, and they are just waiting for us to report this, and put them all in JAIL. This is EVIL beyond anyone’s wildest comprehension!! They literally gutted the middle class ,” salt of the earth”, while they were alive , then killed them., Destroyed millions of families. They will all have to answer to the God I serve, my Lord and Savoir JESUS CHRIST, and trust me, he is coming VERY soon, and everyone that is a part of this EVIL will burn for ETERNITY! My statues and Codes =John 14:6 tells me the truth! My Bible also say’s this life time is like a blink of an eye, compared to ETERNITY! I PRAY this touches at least ONE EVIL doer and they REPENT NOW, and save there SOUL, before it is too late! You would have to be DEAF, Dumb, and BLIND not see these are the day’s of Noah, and my Statues and Codes, tell me he is coming SOON! Now you will be tortured, like you tortured Millions of families World Wide!! REPENT NOW!!
    I found this MOST interesting, From the Dictionary of 1893, Do you know the difference between Legal, and Lawful? Legal= “Statues and Codes” undoing God’s Law. Lawful= “obedience with God” Over 100 million Statues and Codes all over the world.

  10. There are hundreds of us who would love to share our stories with this writer. Put us in touch please.

  11. and if WWIII comes along, it isnt going to matter to any of us

  12. oh and i forgot to add Breach of contract. Pain and mental suffering never is a really good defense in court unless you can directly prove that the foreclosure directly cause your suffering. im sure most would get laughed out of the courtroom.

  13. there is nothing wrong with my brain after 7 yrs of seeing how the banks lie, cover up, fabricate false documents, forge signatures, steal houses, send in their hingemen to steal whatever they can out of occupied houses, harass homeowners, lie to the judges in the courtroom, trespass on homeowner’s property, grand theft. most of these are 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree felonies. NO THIS IS A WAKEUP CALL TO ALL. Dont try to do to the homeowners like they are trying to do to TRUMP. We are not mentally ill, physically sick or anything else except D**n MAD AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.

  14. I can attest to this process of deterioration as I’m experiencing symptoms myself feeling lately, that I’m aging 10 years for each year fighting these criminals both for clients and in our own case which we have been challenging for the last 10+ years (now up on appeal in the 9th Circus).

    Atrial fibrillation (two ablations and now ok); herniated disks (two surgeries); shoulder impingements (three surgeries) and now severe carpal tunnel syndrome (one surgery and the other scheduled on the 1st of June) with resultant triggering of rheumatoid arthritis which is very debilitating for someone that has to draft legal papers every day. The pain, swelling and limited use of my hands though (the RA and Carpal Tunnel), has been the worst and most stressful issue to deal with of any malady I’ve ever had.

    Neil has had his challenges I know, as well.

    The treasonous criminal conspirators and malfeasors kill us one way or the other (indirectly or in some instances, directly) and abscond with property we thought (were led to believe) was ours through fraud and deceit which contrary to the “news,” continues unabated.

    Sad what our once great country has become. Our forefathers must be turning over in their graves (one of whom is a distant relative of mine).

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