The Atlantic: The Reason Anxious People Often Have Allergies
By Olga Khazan
A few years ago, Maya Nanda began noticing a strange pattern among her patients. A pediatric allergist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center at the time, Nanda treated children who had reactions to everything from pollen to pets, and she realized that kids with severe allergies also seemed to have higher rates of anxiety and depression. These young patients seemed anxious when they were discussing their symptoms, and they would often say they felt worried too.
In 2016, Nanda and her colleagues published a study that found that among 7-year-olds, allergies were indeed associated with depression, anxiety, and symptoms such as being withdrawn. Kids with hay fever had a threefold risk of depression and anxiety. Recently, more evidence has supported this link—and not just in children.
The most recent paper had notable limitations. Nanda, now at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri, points out that the study’s authors didn’t adjust for factors such as socioeconomic status, the subjects had an average age of 61, and the data were based on the self-reporting of allergies.
But at this point, several different papers have determined that people with allergies are more likely to be anxious. In 2013, a team of researchers found that not only were allergies associated with an increased prevalence of anxiety and other mood disorders in adults, but people who had been treated for their allergies were less likely to have mood or anxiety disorders than those whose allergies went untreated.
If the link is in fact real, allergies could be causing anxiety and other mood disorders in a few different ways. For one, it’s stressful to be sick, and people with allergies frequently feel like they have a bad cold. The experience of straining to breathe, or of coughing and wheezing, could simply make people feel anxious.
Perhaps there is even an evolutionary reason the allergy-prone would be anxious. It would make sense, for example, “that if you are an allergic person, you have a certain amount of anxiety to avoid your allergens,” Nanda told me.
More studies need to be done to determine how, exactly, allergies might influence mental health.
Read the full story via The Atlantic
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