Allergies and Anxiety
Last updated: December 2022
As someone who lives with both allergies and anxiety, I’ve come to realize the similarities and overlaps between the two of them. It’s definitely a tricky thing to navigate, having both your immune system and your brain overreact to things that don’t pose an immediate danger to you. I’m learning how to deal with both of these things, but to say the least, I’m exhausted.
Allergies versus Anxiety
Allergies are an immune response to some sort of foreign substance that the body perceives as dangerous. Most of the things that people are allergic to are not things that pose a real threat to us. Peanuts aren’t a poisonous food, a domestic dog isn’t likely to maul you, and breathing in pollen isn’t something that most people fret about, yet every time I’m exposed to one of these things, the danger sirens start firing off, and my body does what it can to get me out of that situation and expel these so-called “threats” from my body.
Anxiety is a little trickier because it just bubbles up as a feeling of danger with triggers that seem less excusable than allergies. Nobody questions that you can’t have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because you are allergic. However, when you tell someone that making phone-calls is something that makes you feel sick to your stomach, or a raised voice or change of tone is enough to send you into a downward spiral, sympathy seems to fly out the window, and you’re met with shame and blame. “Just get over it.” “You’re being selfish and inconsiderate.” “You’re just lazy.” I’ve heard them all and more.
Added layers of worry
Having allergies also feeds into my anxiety because there is the constant worry in the back of my head that whenever I’m in a new environment, I’ll come into contact with one of my allergic triggers and either have to leave or go to the hospital if it’s severe. Most of the time, nothing happens, and I’m fine, but allergy anxiety on top of my regular anxiety about the new and unknown is an added layer to my anxiety cake that feels as tall as a skyscraper.
The ups and downs of self-isolation
The thing that both allergies and anxiety have me do is isolate. Is it a great coping mechanism? No. Do I keep defaulting to isolation because it makes me feel safe? Absolutely. In my room with my air purifier on and my phone set to “do not disturb,” nothing can get me. I don’t have to worry about pollen levels being so high that I struggle to catch my breath, nor do I have to worry about everyone I love hating me because I’m able to block everybody out. This isn’t sustainable, and I’m working on it in therapy, but I hope to break free from this self-isolation pattern because while it may protect me, it also prevents me from fully living, and I know I deserve the chance to do that.
How often do you connect with others who have food allergies?