The Allergies-Depression Connection

woman blowing nose due to allergies

By Bobby Shriver

Whether it’s tree pollen, grass, ragweed, mold, or something else, allergies are a way of life for many people. In fact, 50 million people in the United States struggle with allergies, according to Yale Medicine. If you’re like the many who deal with various allergens, you’re probably looking into allergy shots or medications and adding extra tissue boxes to your shopping list when allergy season strikes. But are you thinking about your mental health as well? Based on recent studies, it may be a good idea.

Allergens and Mental Health: A New Link Revealed

It turns out the watery eyes, runny nose, fatigue, and frequent sneezing you may deal with in various seasons are more than just annoying, unpleasant symptoms of allergens. Believe it or not, recent studies have revealed a surprising connection between allergies and depression, as well as other mood disorders. 

Believe it or not, recent studies have revealed a surprising connection between allergies and depression, as well as other mood disorders. 

According to The New York Times, allergy sufferers are one and a half times as likely to struggle with major depression. There’s even a growing link between allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever) and anxiety and depression. But the relationship between allergens and mental health doesn’t stop there:

  • A study based in Taiwan uncovered a connection between eczema, hay fever, and arthritis — and the increased likelihood of developing mental health conditions, shares Frontiers in Psychiatry
  • Research conducted in Denmark has suggested a correlation between higher air pollen prevalence and an increased risk of suicide, explains BMJ Journals
  • Studies show that people with generalized anxiety may typically have seasonal allergies to pollen or grass, according to the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology

Just because you have allergies, however, doesn’t mean you’ll be depressed or vice versa. But the connection is something to keep in mind. With that said, much of the research into the relationship between allergens and mental health conditions is “underrecognized in both the general population and among healthcare practitioners,” says The Times’ Dr. David A. Gudis of New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

What Causes the Connection Between Allergies and Depression?

man blowing nose due to allergies

Considering this science is still being explored, there are a few theories emerging that explain the connection between allergies and mood disorders like depression. One of these prevailing theories proposes that our body’s inflammation and immune system dysregulation triggered by allergens could contribute to changes in our brain chemistry that lead to depressive disorders. As The Times explains, hay fever is a chronic inflammatory disease. When pollen reaches your nose, it causes your body’s immune system to release substances, called cytokines, that cause inflammation in your body’s airways, as well as in areas of the brain that regulate depression and anxiety

The allergy medications you may take could also play a factor into your mental health, shares The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, as antihistamines (such as Benadryl) are prone to cause sedation. Even so, these same antihistamines can cause paradoxical excitability in others, leading to insomnia and agitation, making any prevalent anxiety symptoms even worse, according to Even allergy symptoms themselves can make an impact, as a persistent cough and congestion can lead to a lack of sleep, a contributing factor to developing mental health conditions. 

Understanding Persistent Depressive Disorder

Along with your allergies, if you are struggling with a mood disorder, it could potentially be persistent depressive disorder (PDD). Persistent depressive disorder is a chronic form of depression that lasts two or more years in adults, reports The Times. It can vary from milder cases, sometimes called dysthymia, to more severe forms of PDD. If you have PDD, your symptoms may include

  • Overeating or poor appetite
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or insomnia
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Persistent depressive disorder is often considered milder yet lasts longer compared to major depression. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the cause of persistent depressive disorder is unclear, yet chemical imbalances in the brain, chronic stress and trauma, and environmental, biological, psychological, and genetic factors have been linked to its development. 

Struggling With Mental Health? The Meadows Texas Can Help

Allergies or not, if you’re struggling with depression or other mental health conditions at any time of the year, partnering with a professional treatment program can make a difference. Learning to recognize if you need help is the first step, and we at The Meadows Texas are here to assist you with the rest. Our unique combination of industry-leading, whole-person mental health treatment and laid-back Southern hospitality means your long-term healing is closer than ever. Contact us today to begin your comprehensive recovery journey.