Does your mood take a sharp turn for the worse when your allergies kick in? If so, it may not be "all in your head." In recent years, there's been growing recognition that many allergy sufferers experience depression along with the physical symptoms, causing researchers to explore the connection.

Brain Changes

When allergies make you feel grumpy, irritable, tired, or even depressed, there are several possible theories that explain why your symptoms trigger a poor state of mind.

One theory says that when your immune system over-responds to an allergy trigger, changes occur in your brain which can lead to depression-related symptoms including weakness, low energy, and trouble concentrating.

Researchers spent a year following a group of people with ragweed allergies and noticed that their moods shifted along with the ragweed seasons. When the ragweed count was high, participants seemed depressed, while during the winter months when ragweed wasn't an issue, their moods picked back up. These findings were included in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2002.

Lack of Sleep

Lack of sleep could be another link between allergies and depression. Another study, included in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006, confirmed that allergy sufferers are at increased likelihood for insomnia, which may affect overall mood. Severe allergy symptoms can make it difficult to sleep and can make patients feel exhausted and grumpy the next day.

What You Can Do

If you suffer from allergies and find yourself dealing with low energy, sadness, or depression regardless of whether it's caused by brain changes or sleep deprivation (or a combination of both factors), the important thing is finding ways to cope with the problem. Here are some things you can try to improve your mood and your symptoms:

  • Avoid allergens. Allergy-proof your home and minimize exposure to outdoor triggers.
  • Prevent the reaction. Your doctor can prescribe the most effective medication for you to help prevent symptoms.
  • Manage the symptoms. Many allergy suffers have success using nasal steroid spray or nasal saline rinses for symptom relief without any side effects.
  • Consider immunotherapy. This can help you to build up tolerance when prevention and medication aren't enough to help you feel better.
  • Sleep easy. You may want to track patterns that could be affecting your sleep or symptoms. For instance, if you take certain medications and antihistamines before you go to bed, they can wear off during the night when your symptoms return making it difficult to fall back to sleep again. Some of the newer, long-lasting options can help you avoid this.
  • Keep it in perspective. Remember that even when your allergy symptoms and your mood are at their worst, this is probably a short-term problem. It will get better as the season changes and as you maintain your allergen avoidance strategies. .




American Psychiatric Association>

Archives of Internal Medicine

Psychosomatic Medicine