Millions upon millions of people suffer from allergies. Some of these allergies are fairly mild, ranging from a bit of sneezing in dusty rooms or dry eyes when there's pollen. Some of these allergies are more severe, such as a deadly allergy to peanuts.
Studies have shown that anxiety and allergies have some type of relationship. But what this relationship is may be a bit more confusing. In this article, we'll explore the connections between anxiety and allergies and what you can do about it.
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Treating allergies and anxiety requires you to treat each as a separate condition. Allergies can't be cured by anxiety treatments, and anxiety cannot be cured with allergy treatments. Make sure you're taking steps to cure your anxiety forever.
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Anxiety Causing Allergies - And Vice Versa
Anxiety and allergies are separate conditions. They have different symptoms, and there is no evidence that allergies can create anxiety, nor can anxiety create allergies. Find out if you really have anxiety by taking my free anxiety test.
But despite the fact that they're different conditions, they do have a relationship with each other. The problem is that scientists are still discovering exactly what this relationship is. For studies to work, they have to measure who has anxiety, who has allergies, and whether or not they can give someone anxiety with allergies (and the other way around). This is not possible.
But some relationship is there. There are several different potential relationships between the two conditions. They include:
- Living with allergies can cause some children to develop a discomfort socially, which may cause anxiety as a person ages.
- Those that are more prone to allergies may also be more prone to anxiety, because of the effects of their immune system.
- Anxiety may cause allergies to be worse because of changes in hormone levels. In this case allergies existed before the person suffered from anxiety.
- Allergies make anxiety worse because of stress to the body and physical symptoms while also trying to cope with anxiety.
In some cases, a person can develop anxiety because of fears over their more severe allergies. Anyone with a deathly allergy of a common irritant (like peanuts) may go through each day with more stress than the average individual, and this can cause them to develop anxiety over time.
Different types of anxiety also seem to be affected in different ways by allergies. Allergies can lead to hyperventilation, for example, and hyperventilation can lead to panic attacks. Social phobia may also be more common in those with extensive allergies, since they may become more embarrassed and self-conscious in public. Some people have even posited that IQ may play a role. Many believe that those with higher IQs are more prone to allergies and anxiety, but there isn't any research supporting this idea yet.
Whatever the case, there is a connection. The idea then is to explore further and see if there is any science supporting or refuting the causes above.
- Allergies Might Cause Worse Anxiety There is some early evidence to suggest that allergies could contribute to anxiety, although it's unlikely they cause them. Some studies have found that those with certain food allergies are more prone to anxiety as a symptom of their food allergy. It's possible that various allergies have an effect on blood flow to the brain, which may lead to an increase in anxiety symptoms.
- Anxiety May Cause Worse Allergies Anxiety undoubtedly has an effect on the immune system. This has been studied extensively. Since the immune system is responsible for allergies, it's possible that when the immune system is malfunctioning allergies increase. Other studies found that those with allergy attacks tended to experience much longer attacks when they were under stress than when they weren't.
Both of these are possible, but most likely each person is affected differently by both their allergies and their anxiety. One example that many share is that allergies may be more common in those that spend time indoors. Spending time indoors may be the result of anxiety, or may cause anxiety because a lack of exercise. This is equally as plausible as any of the other theories of the two conditions.
It's also more likely that both of these conditions simply affect each other in mild ways, but when you live with anxiety and allergies, mild changes can feel much worse.
How to Address Allergy Anxiety
The next question is how to address both allergies and anxiety when the link is unclear. For that, you should start by talking to your doctor about your allergies. Allergies are still allergies, even if anxiety was causing them, and presumably your doctor should be able to find you a solution for curing your allergies or reducing their symptoms. This is step one, especially since several over-the-counter medications may be useful for this purpose.
You should also start addressing your anxiety, and even if it's caused by allergies you should treat it like it is a completely separate condition. Anxiety is still a problem with coping, mental behaviors, and stress reduction, and so no matter what its cause, you need to learn these skills in order to cure it completely. Since allergies are almost never going to be the sole cause of your anxiety, addressing these issues will improve your ability to cope and your long term outlook.
I've helped many people with anxiety and allergies with my free 7 minute anxiety test. This test is a great tool for learning more about your anxiety and what you can do to manage it.
Annesi-Maesano, I., Beyer, A., Marmouz, F., Mathelier-Fusade, P., Vervloet, D. and Bauchau, V. (2006), Do patients with skin allergies have higher levels of anxiety than patients with allergic respiratory diseases? Results of a large-scale cross-sectional study in a French population. British Journal of Dermatology, 154: 1128-1136. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2006.07186.x
Thoren, C. ten, and F. Petermann."Reviewing asthma and anxiety." Respiratory medicine 94.5 (2000): 409-415.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.