Hidden Impact of Allergies on Mental Health
Allergies, despite their prevalence, can impair a person's ability to perform everyday activities, and symptoms may cause them to avoid social engagements. People who suffer from allergies are more likely to develop mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Allergies are an immune system reaction to a foreign substance, also called an allergen. The immune system produces antibodies to defend the body from these allergens. Food or environmental factors can trigger an allergic reaction. Allergies are extremely common. Every year, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergy symptoms, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergies are the sixth greatest cause of chronic illness in the United States, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Some of the most common allergy symptoms are irritation in the eyes, hives that form a raised rash, heavy breathing through the mouth, wheezing and shortness of breath, headaches, coughing, sneezing, and sniffing. Some of the severe symptoms include ear infections and pain, gastrointestinal issues, and nose haemorrhages. Allergies, despite their prevalence, can be difficult to identify since their symptoms might mimic those of other medical conditions. Although there is no cure for allergies, medication can help to mitigate symptoms. Allergy meds, often known as antihistamines, are intended to relieve symptoms, but they can cause drowsiness, disrupting everyday activities and sleep patterns.
Impact on mental health:
- Some experts believe that the inflammatory substances that produce allergic reactions in the body may also affect the brain, contributing to depression and anxiety. Similarly, signs of an allergic reaction may raise levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in a person with a mental health disorder. A study published in 2019 by the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel-Aviv University, Israel, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, found that treated atopic eczema is linked to a 14% increased risk of depression and a 17% increased risk of a later diagnosis of anxiety. These findings indicate the necessity of a complete bio-psycho-social strategy to limit prevalent mental disorders in individuals with atopic eczema and could influence recommendations for the care of atopic eczema.
- Allergy symptoms involve the body's exterior and a visible reaction. According to recent survey data from Allergy UK, up to 53% of adults living with allergies avoid social connections, which can lead to isolation and a lower quality of life. Furthermore, symptoms might disrupt typical sleep cycles, resulting in physical exhaustion and aggravating mental health issues. 52% of allergy sufferers felt compelled to conceal symptoms for fear of being judged by family, friends, or employers, leading to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Parents of children with allergies face emotional stress as well, with 54% expressing concern about their children having an allergic reaction while eating outside. Severe allergy symptoms might prevent children from participating in outdoor activities, while food allergies can cause concern among peers and hinder social interactions.
- According to a 2016 study, the increasing number of allergic diseases with internalising tendencies at the age of 7 years has considerable therapeutic implications, since the children may develop anxiety or depression later in life. A study published in 2018 discovered a strong association between seasonal allergies and mental disorders. The necessity for early integrated care by referring and screening children and young people with allergies for mental health issues as a preventive intervention is a crucial implication of this study.
- Rahmah Albugami, clinical director and outpatient professional counsellor at Makin Wellness, said that health disparities such as age, colour, gender, special health care needs, and geographic location should be examined to broaden future research for the findings to be generalizable. Some regions may have a harder time getting preventive care. Expanding research groups to include historically marginalised communities, who are less likely to manage allergy disorders through professional health care access, can offer information on the socioeconomic determinants that influence seeking and receiving the appropriate therapy.
- Because allergies are linked to inflammation, doctors advise patients to eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. Adding antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to our diet can also help to strengthen our immune system. Avoiding scents such as perfumes and candles may also help avoid triggers. According to doctors, adults and children are also encouraged to live an active lifestyle that benefits both their physical and mental well-being.
- Apart from diagnosing and treating physical symptoms, doctors advise people with allergies to discuss any mental health issues they may be facing. Talking to a mental health professional can help them manage their emotions and reduce stress. Connecting with others who are dealing with similar issues can also be a source of support for some people. The link between allergies and mental health is rarely discussed, which adds to the stigma around allergies.
- According to recent research, Albugami implied that there is a direct correlation between mental and physical well-being and that each exists in synchronicity with the other. This demonstrates the importance of looking at the human experience as a whole. The first step in removing the stigma around allergies and mental health is to teach patients how to recognise and understand their symptoms, both physical and psychological.