Food allergies and anxiety

Food allergies and anxiety

Food allergies and anxiety

It may seem obvious that experiencing an allergic reaction is uncomfortable. Reactions cause harmful symptoms including rashes, rhinitis, and anaphylaxis, all of which can be painful. But having an allergy causes more than just physical pain. Allergies and anxiety go hand in hand.

A European survey of studies published in Chemical Immunology and Allergy found a strong link between food allergies and reduced “health-related quality of life”. This was defined in terms of social, dietary, and psychological factors. These are the less talked about experiences of living with an allergy, yet they are very common. Many people are left wondering how to cope with them.

Food allergies

Around 2 million people in the UK have a food allergy. This includes 5-8% of all children. Vice once published a story titled ‘How food allergies can ruin your life’. If this title is to be believed, that means 2 million people’s lives in the UK are at risk of being ruined by something out of their control. The term ‘ruin’ may be slightly extreme for some people with allergies. In some cases, food allergies can cause death, but for many, there are effective treatments and ways to keep allergies under control.

But, there are subtle ways that allergies can take their toll on your well-being. The constant vigilance required to prevent an allergic reaction is tiring for many. It takes control over where you go, when you go, who you go with, and removes spontaneity from your life. With everything you do, there is a constant worry. “What if I have a reaction?” “What if they mess up my order?”

These concerns are more than legitimate. People have died when restaurants have messed up an order and forgotten to remove an allergen from someone’s meal. Peanuts are incredibly common, especially in certain cuisines. There is a constant, rational fear that comes with having an allergy. A fear of life or death. This fear can lead to anxiety. You become anxious about travelling, trying new foods, going on public transport, or visiting places where there are lots of people whose actions may affect your allergy, yet are out of your control.

Feeling anxious

To complicate matters further, the symptoms of anxiety can be similar to those of an allergic reaction. If you have an allergy, you may panic because you suspect you have come into contact with an allergen. You could misinterpret the resultant symptoms of anxiety as an allergic reaction. This is dangerous in some cases through the maladministration of anti-anaphylactic drugs, but mostly it is highly distressing to experience.

So how do you stop the allergy-anxiety cycle? We should not allow allergies to ‘ruin’ anyone’s life. Varied treatments for anxiety exist but they depend on what is causing your anxiety and who you are. Some people may already have anxiety which is worsened by having allergies. For some, having severe allergies can cause anxiety to develop. Anxiety can also rear its head if you have a child with allergies.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it’s best to speak to your doctor who can talk you through your treatment options. These can include therapy, medication or calming techniques. Getting to the root cause of your anxiety will allow you to treat it for an improved level of social, physical and mental wellbeing.

To ease your mind, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what you are allergic to so that you can start to take the necessary steps to prevent future reactions. To arrange an allergy test, book an appointment with one of our consultants today.

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