A is for … Allergies + Anxiety

January 13, 2017 Just for Fun, Narcissism 7

I’m doing a kind of “A-to-Z Selfie” project for 2017. This involves writing blog posts of a personal nature. If you’re interested in the topic, please feel free to chime in! If not, you’ll be happy to know that more bookish content will be published soon.

I have allergies. Not to food, that I know of, but what people sometimes call “seasonal” allergies — you know, itchy eyes, being generally unable to breathe due to floods of snot, that kind of thing. Except, for me this problem persists through all 4 seasons. Allergies and related respiratory/skin issues run in the family.

I have also been relatively recently diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (+ underlying persistent depression, possibly, though I remain skeptical of this tentative diagnosis). Affective disorders also run in the family.

 

Why am I talking about these issues? And why am I talking about them together… ?

I’ll answer the 2nd question 1st: Because, surprisingly, there is some evidence that links the two conditions.

People with allergies are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and related issues than the general population, and vice-versa. The specific reason(s) for the correlation are still unclear. It doesn’t look like one condition causes the other, and having one problem doesn’t automatically = having the other. The correlation could have something to do with sleep disruption, general inflammation, or genetics among other things.

The reason I started looking into this has to do with a medication that I was prescribed: hydroxyzine, a first-generation antihistamine. This stuff is used to treat both severe allergy symptoms and panic attacks, and even obsessive behaviors associated with OCD. I regularly take the OTC antihistamine cetirizine, which is the 2nd-gen version of hydroxyzine. I thought it was extremely interesting that a different version of the same medication that I use to keep the snot at bay might also be used to keep anxiety at bay.

As to the first question — why I’m telling the Internet that I have allergies and anxiety — that’s because I don’t think it does either society or individuals any good to pretend that any illness doesn’t exist, especially mental illnesses. Being in the dark does nobody any good, and the only way to combat the darkness is to shine light on the situation, right?

If you also deal with allergies + anxiety or similar issues, or if you just have questions, please feel free to talk to me about it!

Sources:

Goodwin, R. D., Galea, S., Perzanowski, M., & Jacobi, F. (2012). Impact of allergy treatment on the association between allergies and mood and anxiety in a population sample. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 42(12), 1765-1771.

Qin, P., Mortensen, P. B., Waltoft, B. L., & Postolache, T. T. (2011). Allergy is associated with suicide completion with a possible mediating role of mood disorder – a population‐based study. Allergy, 66(5), 658-664.

Rosenblat, J. D., Cha, D. S., Mansur, R. B., & McIntyre, R. S. (2014). Inflamed moods: A review of the interactions between inflammation and mood disorders. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 53, 23-34.

Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). Allergic Rhinitis: Relationships with Anxiety and Mood Syndromes. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(7), 12–17.

Wilczynska-Kwiatek, A., Bargiel-Matusiewicz, K., & Lapinski, L. (2009). Asthma, allergy, mood disorders, and nutrition. European Journal of Medical Research, 14(Suppl 4), 248–254.

7 Responses to “A is for … Allergies + Anxiety”

  1. Jenni Elyse

    Bravo! I’m glad you’re helping erase the stigma. 🙂 I also suffer from allergies all year round. I have dermographism, which means if I don’t have antihistamines in my system constantly, I welt up (and itch) and the slightest provocation. It’s very annoying.

    I’ve also been diagnosed depression, SAD, and anxiety. And, also Asperger’s, which I know is now just lumped in with all spectrum disorders, but I think Asperger’s is more telling of my spectrum disorder than just saying I’m a high-functioning autistic person.

    • Louise

      Ugh, your allergy issue does sound hella annoying. Also, SAD is no joke — I hope you’re doing OK right now, this time of year just is not super fun for a lot of people.

  2. The Captain

    Thanks for tackling this subject. Very interesting about the correlation. Will need to check it out more. I too flip flop back and forth between generalized anxiety and mild depression. Was reading about mindfulness and the study of “time” as related to both. It’s hard to stay mentally focused on the present all of the time. I don’t think we’re suppose to. I mean, quite often, I feel like my brain is involved in a 3D chess game..where the present, past, & future are all kinda interacting at once. Read: “Focusing on the past is depression. Focusing on the future is anxiety.” (Forgive lack of citation…grrr….) I find that to be so true. When I feel myself slipping into one or the other, I’ve learned to do a quick check and yep. I’m usually NOT “in the moment”. Just thought I’d throw this out there for anyone else who might want to experiment with the 4th dimension’s effect on our affect. 🙂

  3. Margaret Walk

    I had never heard of this correlation, but it’s very interesting. I’m sure you know I am an allergy swamp, although I will say moving to Pennsylvania has done wonders for that. Used to be constantly like a 8-9 (out of 10) on snot production, itchy eyes, and sinus pressure but now I’m really only that bad when I get a fun hormonal allergy day.

    I’ve never really seen a doctor about brain issues, and therefore have never been diagnosed or treated, so I can’t really confirm or deny the connection. If I were to diagnose myself I’d say I teeter on the edge of being bipolar, but I’ve been able to manage my mood swings so I don’t worry about it much (although lately I’ve been thinking I should at least see a doctor about my sleep habits because that’s getting disruptive to my everyday life).

    In as much as I’m stealing every other blog idea from you, I actually really like this idea… haha

    • Louise

      Haha, thieve away buddy. And also, yes, probably talking to a doc about the sleep thing is a good idea. The 1st gen antihistamine can knock me out for a few hours if I don’t take it with caffeine, AND it solves most of the snot problem at the same time, so perhaps they’ll try something like that for you? Worth investigating anyway.

      • Margaret Walk

        I’m mostly worried about getting a dependency on sleep medication. I use OTC sleep aids when it’s real bad, but right now I’m trying to change some habits that have definitely been contributing to my sleep issues. If that gets me nowhere, doctor is the next step!

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