The Impact of Allergy-Restricted Breathing on Anxiety

If anyone ever tells you that your allergies do not contribute to stress and anxiety, they are dead wrong. Allergies are closely linked to anxiety disorders but, unfortunately, many people fail to make this connection. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that all of the anxiety in the world is precipitated by allergies, or, that everyone who has allergies will experience anxiety. It is however, important for those who suffer from anxiety to consider the impact that their allergies may have on their sense of well being.

Most allergy sufferers would agree that symptoms caused by seasonal or perennial allergies are annoying and sometimes debilitating. I wondered though, how many people make the connection between their allergies and their anxious thoughts or moods? 

Years ago, at an appointment with my allergist, I posed the following question to him:

“How many of your patients complain of mood swings and anxiety?” 

His reply? 

“Most.”  

In order to determine what we can do to reduce the impact that allergies have on our anxiety, it’s important to consider the specific reasons that allergies contribute to the anxiety response.

Most importantly, allergies have a significant impact on our breathing. Inflamed and congested nasal passages and airways do not allow for the efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide; a function that is extremely important for good health. One of the most prominent symptoms of an anxiety or panic attack is shallow breathing or hyperventilation. Most allergy sufferers take short, quick breaths through their mouths (because of nasal congestion) whereby they essentially induce mild hyperventilation on themselves.

Allergic asthma creates a tightening sense of pressure on the chest and shortness of breath which are other common symptoms of anxiety. Clinical studies have shown that those who experience anxiety symptoms while taking part in bronchial challenge testing (which is used to detect allergic or occupational asthma) do so because of their accurate perception of the physiological changes causing airway obstruction. Said more clearly, the feeling of not being able to breathe correctly has the potential to invoke anxiety.

Improper breathing as a result of allergies can cause other anxiety-related symptoms as well, including chest pains. I noted above that allergic asthma can cause feelings of chest pressure, but in addition, constantly breathing through the mouth results in us “swallowing” air which can contribute to gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux. Heartburn-related chest pains will no doubt increase the perception of anxiety in our minds.

Many individuals who have suffered with allergies for years develop a condition known as Hyperventilation Syndrome, a breathing-pattern disorder which closely mimics anxiety and panic. 

So, what can we do to minimize the anxiety that is caused by our allergies?

First, with the help of your allergist, find treatments that are the most effective in helping you clear your nasal passages. Most importantly, practice allergy avoidance techniques as your first line of defense. 

Second, educate yourself and work to overcome any breathing-pattern disorders that you may have developed which are causing or contributing to your anxiety. After doing so, you will be amazed at the sense of peace that you feel as your health is restored and you are once again able to enjoy life!  


Source by Joseph R. Pearson

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