Allergies and Mental Health

Spring has sprung, and for those of us with seasonal allergies, that news is a double-edged sword. Not only do allergies make it more difficult to enjoy the longer days and warmer temperatures, but it turns out there may be a link between allergic reactions and a decline in mental health.

According to the article Common Allergic Reactions Linked to Mental Health in Medical News Today, there are many connections between allergies—more specifically, seasonal allergies and hay fever—and mental health. Tim Newman writes: “If someone has inflammation on their skin caused by an allergy, it might also be present in the brain. On the other side of the coin, it’s possible that the stress of an allergic condition worsens psychiatric symptoms that already exist. The relationship is likely to be a complex two-way street.”

Cycle of the Seasons

Depression and anxiety often get worse in the winter, when sunshine is limited. We stay inside, isolated from others and often falling into repetitive routines that may or may not be in our health’s best interest. The spring promises a much more pleasant outdoor experience, encouraging you to soak up all the vitamins you can from the sun and leave your cold-weather den. Unless, of course, you suffer from allergies. Allergies alone can cause stress, but when combined with a mental health issue, the suffering is compounded.

In their article for Bustle, JR Thorpe explains in more detail:

“Eczema is painful, asthma and rhinitis are physically unpleasant, and both the conditions themselves and the treatments take up time and energy. It’s still difficult to deal with serious allergies, particularly in combination. Plus, people with sensitivity to environmental allergens, like pollen and air pollution, might isolate themselves inside, which is never a good thing for mental health.”

What Could It Mean?

The studies on mental health and allergic reactions are inconclusive as far as cause and effect. However there does seem to be some connection between the two. In a 15 yearlong study, among participants with allergies, 66 percent more developed some psychiatric condition over those who did not have allergies.

Studies continue on how allergies and mental health might affect one another. However, there are some common sense relationships between the two, like the seemingly lose-lose decision for someone with depression and hay fever. Thorpe describes one surprising way in which seasonal allergies and mental health disorders are alike: “Allergies set off tissue inflammation inside the body, and high inflammation levels themselves have been tied to a higher likelihood of mood disorders, though it’s not clear whether they’re cause or effect.”With more information, we may be able to better understand how allergies and their symptoms can change how we deal with mental health issues. This understanding may eventually change how we treat them both.

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