How does the psychological state affect allergies?
STUDIES THAT CONFIRM THE RELATIONSHIP OF EMOTIONAL STATE AND ALLERGIC REACTION
Calm and once again calm. No matter how unpleasant and dangerous allergic manifestations are, you definitely don’t need to “wind up” yourself once again. After all, the more nervous a person is, the more severe his allergy can be.
For the first time, the connection between allergies and the physical state, that is, the psychosomatics associated with allergies, was discussed at the end of the 19th century. In 1883, Dr. Morell Mackenzie, a pioneer in the field of ENT medicine, observed: “Bouts of prolonged sneezing are most susceptible to people with a nervous temperament.”
In the 1940s, doctors discovered that it was possible to induce an attack of the disease in patients with allergies by deceiving the person. During the experiment, the doctor brought a branch of goldenrod, a relative of ragweed, and a plant similar to it to the patient, and the person immediately experienced allergy attacks (sneezing, runny nose and nasal congestion). Although in fact the plant was artificial. As soon as the deception was revealed, the symptoms disappeared.
Another example. UK, 1990s. In a survey of 10,000 respondents, 20% of them reported hives, itching and other allergy symptoms caused by eating various foods. But skin testing for these same products showed a positive reaction in less than 2% of cases.
And in 2011, researchers found that the use of placebo inhalers in patients with mild to moderate asthma provided the same relief as using real drugs. The only difference was that placebo had no effect on lung function tests. They improved only after taking medication.
New studies, including by Ukrainian scientists, show that people with seasonal allergies often have anxiety. And those who suffer from year-round allergies are more likely to become depressed.
Thus, the results of a German study in 2018-2019 showed a link between the emotional state and allergies in Europeans. Scientists interviewed 1782 people in Augsburg, Germany (age 39-88) and found that a quarter of them had one or another allergy. And, according to the type of allergy, seasonal or year-round, people also had certain differences in psychological conditions. According to scientists, this may be due to the need to adapt to different ways of life in the fight against allergies.
Vinnitsa scientists came to similar conclusions a few years before the German ones. They proved that Ukrainians with hay fever also have changes in the psychological profile of the personality during the pollen season. Scientists note that people with seasonal allergies experience anxiety immediately with the approach of the new pollen season.
The study, which included 61 people with allergies (age 18-65), of whom 25 were controls, showed an increase in depression, paranoia, and schizophrenia scores in 50% of men with hay fever. And in 25% of women, a psychotype was recorded, which was characterized by simultaneously increased values on the scales of psychopathy, paranoia, depression and hypomania .
To clarify, we mean only individual characteristics of the personality profile, and not the presence of a disease.
ALLERGY AND PSYCHOSOMATICS: HOW IT WORKS
Scientists believe that people with a certain psychotype are more prone to allergies.
Psycho-emotional stress affects the nervous, endocrine and immune systems involved in the formation and exacerbation of various diseases.
Research on the biological mechanisms of allergy points to a complex interplay between factors such as genetic predisposition and environmental influences.
However, there is another interaction, the interaction of mind and body. The emergence of physical symptoms of the disease as a result of this interaction is called psychosomatics.
For example, a 2003 study showed a psychosomatic allergic reaction to peanuts in one patient. He thought he had such an allergy. After all, after eating peanut butter, he felt breathing problems and itchy mouth. But when a doctor performed an experiment in which the patient was exposed to peanuts but was unaware of it, and no symptoms developed afterwards, the researchers concluded that the preliminary physical reaction was psychosomatic.
Psychogenic food reactions may also include:
sense of security
The most common idiosyncratic psychosomatic reactions to food include:
Epigastric discomfort or pain
and rarely diarrhea.
Many studies report a psychosocial impact on the onset and progression of allergic diseases such as bronchial asthma and atopic dermatitis.
According to Japanese scientists, their development is preceded not only by genetic predisposition, but also by a number of other factors, in particular, the so-called “preparatory factors”. These are, for example, polluted air, psycho-emotional stress in childhood, character and behavioral problems.
If a certain activating factor, such as exposure to an allergen, a cold or stress, is added to this “preparatory state”, the disease can manifest itself. Or worsen the course of an existing disease.
And, conversely, by reducing the psycho-emotional load, asthma symptoms can be improved, and even get rid of them.
There is an opinion that most people with asthma are fastidious individuals or perfectionists who suppress their feelings or adapt to the opinions of others. They tend to have severe symptoms. This is due to the fact that such people get tired quickly and cannot seek help from the people around them.
In addition, some people who have had relationship problems with their parents since childhood or who have been bullied at school may have distrust of others, feelings of anxiety and/or self-denial. As they grow up, they often have strong interpersonal conflicts and experience anxiety or stress when faced with problems.
“Japanese Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Psychosomatic Diseases” describes in detail the diagnosis and treatment of psychosomatic disorders. They classify psycho-emotional factors into five categories:
1) Relationship between stress and asthma onset or progression.
2) Relationship between emotions and asthma symptoms.
3) Problems related to the character and behavior of the patient.
4) Problems with daily life and quality of life.
5) Problems related to family relationships and life experiences.
ALLERGY IN A CHILD. PSYCHOSOMATICS
There is evidence that the development and course of allergies can be influenced not only by one’s own psychological state, but also by the psychological state of loved ones, especially mothers.
The study, which analyzed information on 7,250 children, found that maternal anxiety and depression may mediate the relationship between a child’s rash and wheezing and their mental state. Moreover, this relationship was especially evident when the child was 8 years old.
Also, scientists believe that even if a mother experiences depression while pregnant or in the postpartum period, this also increases the likelihood that her child will have eczema or asthma. And caring for a child with eczema or asthma is associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation in parents, which in turn can affect the child’s psychological well-being.
But, even if the child does not have an allergy, excessive parental anxiety and worries, in the end, can lead to the onset of the disease.
A study conducted in the UK indicates that 31% of parents of children in the first year of life believe that their child has one or another food intolerance. When the children were three years old, the number of parents with such a conviction was already 34%.
Such fears can lead to the deliberate exclusion of certain foods from the child’s diet due to the fear of allergies. In fact, as evidenced by the results of studies, such restrictions, on the contrary, may cause allergies in the future. And they can also lead to the formation of an unbalanced diet in a child. Which is bad for its growth and development.
But early introduction of potential allergens during breastfeeding, but not earlier than 6 months, can protect the child from allergies in the future.
A 2008 study compared the prevalence of peanut allergy in Jewish children in Israel and the UK. As a result, it was noticed that such an allergy is more often recorded in children from the UK, where peanuts were introduced into the diet later and less often.
Similarly, a Swedish study confirms that introducing fish to a child’s diet before the age of one reduced the risk of fish allergy later in life.
WHAT TO DO TO REDUCE ALLERGY SYMPTOMS?
First of all, you need to understand whether psychosomatics plays a role in the formation of allergic or similar symptoms. If psychosomatic factors worsen the symptoms of the disease, you need to choose the right therapy.
During it, patients receive information from the doctor about the causes of their illness, medicines (their content, desired consequences and adverse effects), factors that cause overexertion (overwork, stress, drugs, smoking, alcohol, etc.) and about how to avoid allergens.
In addition, it is important to know that today some types of allergies are completely curable with the help of allergen immunotherapy (AIT or AIT). Accordingly, the cure for allergies as such can improve the overall psychosomatic state.