There’s actually not too much known about the relationship between mental health and wellbeing and having allergies.
For me, it’s obvious – there must be a link. When you have to plan and consider many aspects of your life in ways that others do not, this can have a huge impact on wellbeing. However scientific research on this is fairly limited.
Currently researchers at Aston University are looking at this as part of a project to examine more fully how an allergic person is impacted by their condition. More details can be found here – https://www.allergyuk.org/about/latest-news/987-impact-of-food-allergy-on-the-quality-of-life-and-psychological-distress-in-adults
There was also a study done in Taiwan over a 15 year period looking at whether or not those with eczema, asthma and hay fever were at a higher risk of mental ill health. It concluded (when looking at about 46,000 people with allergies and almost 140,000 without) that there was an increased risk of 66 per cent. However the numbers were still small.
Therefore studying this is a work in progress.
I’m no scientist I can only speak from experience so here are five ways I’ve found my quality of life and mental wellbeing affected by being very allergic
Anxiety – I can get very anxious and concerned about what people think about me to a point where I’m hyper-sensitive and feel as if people are looking at me, especially when I’m asking multiple questions around ingredients in foods, products or meals. I’ve even left places in tears as my anxiety reaches fever pitch and then some is unkind or unpleasant – I will also then avoid those places and get anxious if I feel I might have to face a similar incident.
Feeling ill – there are days when I feel very ill for no discernible reason. Allergies, I’ve learned don’t come alone. Other things come with it. I hate being ill and I hate taking a day off work however occasionally I’m so ill that I cannot get out of bed, or I have terrible stomach cramps and I just have to go home. I’ve noticed this happens to me more than other women. If I didn’t run Creative Nature and was employed, I’d have to take sick days occasionally for reasons other than having a specific more ‘normal’ illness.
Going outdoors – I have to consider pollen in the air as it can affect me, although my worst allergens are food-related. Being exposed to pollen can affect my nose, eyes and throat so I have to be so careful. In hot, humid weather that we’ve been having recently, I have to make a conscious decision about going out or not. Most people won’t even think about this. I also have to have a dehumidifier at home to ensure the air is as clear as it can be – having a fan is not enough to mitigate the risk of an allergic reaction.
Itching – there’s some suggestion that itching of the skin could be related to allergies. I will itch from time to time and I’ve been told by other allergy sufferers that this could get worse as I get older. Itching also increases anxiety if it becomes regular, can lead to sore skin and it can become a vicious circle. While it’s always good to check it out with a GP if you are scratching your skin sore as there could be another cause. However there’s some suggestion that increased itching could be related to allergies.
Isolation – when you are very allergic you can feel isolated which can ultimately lead to depression. As a child, I felt very isolated at school as I often had to eat alone and I got used to being alone. You are constantly aware that your condition impacts on those around you and what they eat and this can be exhausting and draining. It’s just tiring all around, sometimes it’s easier to be alone than to feel like you are constantly having to make an effort. In my case, my fiancé Matt is my rock and he doesn’t make me feel like I’m some kind of burden and I’m hugely grateful for that. Not everyone has that in their lives. I don’t have children, however I do imagine that parents of allergic children must also feel very isolated too.
If you want to share with us any stories related to your allergies on your mental health or quality of life – please drop us a line too.