Mental illness is complex and can be brought on by a variety of different factors, some of which may not immediately appear related to mental health. One of these links that might be particularly surprising is the relationship between allergies and mental health. A new study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry sheds light on this connection, which may help you better understand your own health as well as provide insight to the complicated array of factors that can play into your mental and behavioral health.
Links between allergies and mental health
The recent study on allergies and mental health focused on the three As: Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever), atopic dermatitis (eczema), and asthma. Because each of these conditions is so common, you might not think much of their connection to your mental health, but it turns out there are some unexpected links that exist. The risk of psychiatric conditions, including depression, is higher in individuals with any of the conditions categorized in the three As. However, the increase in risk is not equal across the board. Those with just eczema had the lowest increase in the risk of mental illnesses, while individuals with asthma or a combination of asthma and other conditions had a higher risk of mental health problems.
Possible causes of the connection
With such an unexpected predictor of mental illness revealed, doctors are eager to discover the causes of the connection. Of course, this is where more research needs to be dedicated to fully understand what’s occurring. There are, however, some likely causes for more mental illness in allergy sufferers.
• Having allergies can be stressful. – Sometimes, the simplest explanation is the most feasible, and in this case, it makes sense that allergies and asthma can directly link to anxiety and depression because of the stress of symptoms. Those with seasonal allergies may tend to spend more time indoors, avoiding certain activities to keep sneezing and runny noses at bay. Similarly, asthma may preclude participation from physical activities and outdoor events, and that can be isolating. In addition, struggling to manage allergy symptoms at work and throughout daily chores may simply become a source of anxiety, because allergies can flare up so suddenly and severely.
• Inflammation may play a role. – It is likely that the link between allergies and mental health is not entirely circumstantial. One thing that allergies, asthma, and eczema have in common is inflammation. Studies have shown that individuals with depression tend to have higher inflammation markers in their blood, but it’s not certain if this causes or is caused by depression. Another possible conclusion is that the inflammation of allergies is widespread and affects the brain tissue, causing certain mental illnesses to develop or intensify.
• Psychological factors can intensify allergy symptoms. – Another sign that mental illness and allergic reactions go hand-in-hand is the reported symptoms of eczema sufferers. Individuals with eczema tend to report extreme itching and irritation, and it’s likely that the intensity of itching is exacerbated by psychological factors, because these symptoms are more extreme than would be expected for this type of rash.
Your health is complicated, but your healthcare doesn’t have to be. MeMD can help you see a doctor or behavioral specialist on-demand for a low, flat rate. You don’t even have to leave home, because our services take place over the web for you convenience.