This week I joined the #allergyhour twitter chat. The main topic was the link between mental health and food allergies. There is a growing body of medical literature that shows a link between food allergies and mental health. A food allergy significantly impacts patients. It also impacts patients families in all areas of their lives so it makes sense that mental health is impacted.
Research shows that people managing food allergies report increased anxiety and depression over allergy limitations. Perhaps the most common mental health problem that food allergies cause are anxiety and depression. These are described as emotions of unease and fear and an overarching sense of despondency.
There is also a growing body of evidence to link sufferers of coeliac disease to an increased incidence of eating disorders. Eating disorders can be defined as a range of psychological disorders characterised by abnormal or disturbed eating habits such as anorexia nervosa.
Here at Allergy Out, we want to help everyone with a food allergy have as much fun as possible, which is why are going to use the rest of this blog post to try and flip this fear of food on its head. Check out this blog post on Thriving with allergies for further inspo!)
First of all, a little bit of fear is good. Fear helps us to stay alive and it’s important to remain alert and aware in the context of allergies and intolerances. There is a positive to the emotional response you are having.
Oftentimes, when we have too much fear, problems can develop. The first thing that I find helpful is to try and imagine what would happen if you act on to every fearful thought that crosses your mind. Yes, you would be almost 100% safe. However, there are so many dangers that we face in life that you will never be 100% safe from living. If we wrap ourselves too much in cotton wool we will miss out on all of our dreams. As well as all of the wonderful things we want to accomplish in life. A bit of fear is necessary for survival but too much fear and we stop living.
Here are a few strategies
1) First of all twitter groups, facebook groups and online communities can be a real help. It is what spurred us on to create Allergy Out. Listening to advice and sharing thoughts can be helpful and reassuring. There are so many good people sharing ideas and strategies for allergies right now.
2) Doing your own offline or online research
3) For an even more effective solution consider face to face solutions such as speaking to a therapist or your GP
It is worrying to think about how easy it is to develop a negative relationship with food. Eating should be fun, not a job that you dread.
Do you experience mental health struggles caused by allergies? What have you done to help yourself and others? For further information on Mental Health, please see Mind.