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Are allergies linked to depression?

Do allergies play a role in depression? A new study suggests that depressed people who are allergic to pollen are more likely to experience a worsening of their symptoms during allergy season.

Partam Manalai of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and colleagues studied 100 volunteers who had been previously diagnosed as suffering from depression. The researchers assessed their mood during allergy season and compared it to another part of the year. They also took blood samples.

In a report being presented this week at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in New Orleans, Manalai reported that the subjects' depression worsened when they were suffering from the stuffiness, sneezing and coughing caused by their allergies. But even those who did not have symptoms, but whose blood samples showed their immune systems were responding to pollen experienced more depression.

The findings indicate that allergies can make depression worse in those who suffer from both conditions. It's the first time that's been shown. While more research is needed to understand how allergies may make depression worse, the findings also indicate that treating a depressed person's allergies may help improve their mood, even if they aren't actually experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction.

The findings are important, the researchers say, because half of people are estimated to suffer from allergies, including about one in five who are believed to be allergic to pollen. The results also fit with previous research that has shown an increase in suicides during the spring and fall allergy seasons.

By Rob Stein  |  May 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Asthma , Mental Health  
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Somebody paid *Actual Money* to commission this study?? Wow, what a breakthrough! People who don't feel good are more likely to feel depressed. What a concept.

And I hope somebody told these folks that sneezing/coughing/stuffiness are not the only normal symptoms of allergies. I get horrible fatigue. My kids get eczema flare-ups.

Posted by: floof | May 26, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Agreed! How does one distinguish between chronic fatigue and depression?

My severe, life-threatening allergies were ignored by many doctors until I referred myself to an allergist at age 35. My days of not feeling well were directly tied in intensity to active allergy symptoms. Moreover, I'm panallergic, so there is never really a season [except the short, deep winter] without plants that bother me. I have no idea how years of weekly doctor visits led to all of them missing this.

After years of treatment I finally function 'normally' and without a daily struggle. As a high achiever, the long periods of fatigue have been horribly frustrating.

Of course, antidepressants have helped from time to time, but after aggressive allergy treatment I no longer need them.

Sleep apnea can also follow along with structural changes (see an ENT specialist also), which can cause chronic fatigue also. Kids can have sleep apnea, too.

Unfortunately, no one will tie all of these medical specialities together except you, the patient. Rotate regularly through the specialists you need until you are on the road to feeling better.

Let's forget the diagnosis of 'depression' and work hard for ourselves to dig into that underlying medical cause, whatever it is. If you feel well, you will cope well. Be proactive. Don't quit. Find it and fix it. Leave depression as a diagnosis for people who really have it, or for the cause of fatigue that really can't be found yet.

Posted by: hapax142 | May 26, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree with FLOOF. Biophsychiatry and drug companies are constantly looking for ways, however tangential, to tie "mental illness" to anything that can be physically measured, in hopes of expanding the scope of diagnoses and finding new things they can sell to "fix" whatever they can measure.

That's how they can tell us that around 20% of Americans are now "mentally ill," and how previously rare diagnoses are now common. (Virtually no kids used to be diagnosed as bipolar - now kids who are sad but sometimes oppositional or aggressive can be candidates for bipolar diagnosis and medication with cocktails of antidepressants, mood stablizers and antiphsycotic drugs - with no information about how these drugs affect growing brains long term).

This article is just not news. Studies could be done to show that people's dark moods get worse under any number of circumstances: if their dog died, if they have a 15 page term paper due tomorrow, if they've had a bad case of poison ivy for the last week, if they have an arthritic hip that keeps them from their daily walk, if they have any medical condition that makes them tired or fearful ... and on and on.

Keep in mind: Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, found drug companies spend about $50 billion per year on promotion - more than they spend on research. Chances are this article is the result of a drug company press release; and as usual, it is printed without critical comment, in a first rate newspaper. The drug companies are no fools - that kind of thoughtless acceptance is exactly what they pay $50 billion for.

Posted by: pdwyer1 | May 26, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

This really hits home. Depression and sinus problems run in my family though never have been linked. My dad was diagnosed with migraines, some of which may well have been sinus headaches from repeated sinus infections. Depression was a major factor in his unwillingness to seek treatment for cancer, which ultimately killed him.
Skin tests indicate I'm allergic to lots of things but manage to live a very normal life as long as I exercise, get enough sleep, drink lots of water and take my Claritin D religiously. When I was prescribed Flonase the first time, it literally changed my life.
Follow-on research needs include more exploration into the development/cessation of allergies as a person ages and any correlations to depression at various life stages.

Posted by: bluestilton | May 26, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

If you suffer miserable symptoms during the pollen season, it seems a normal reaction to become depressed when the pollen arrives.

Posted by: fabricmaven1 | May 26, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

hapax142: A reasonable question. I remember one doctor saying that to tell whether someone had depression or myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka "chronic fatigue syndrome"), just ask what the person wanted to do when he/she felt better. Someone with ME will have a long list of things. Someone with depression probably won't know.

My guess is that the question would also work for any other physical disease.

Posted by: cinderkeys | May 26, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

I would interpret this to mean that a faulty immune system can be behind both disorders. It is not outside the realm of possibility that autoimmunity plays a role in some forms of depression.

Posted by: ihave4ducks | May 26, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

I would interpret this to mean that a faulty immune system can be behind both disorders. It is not outside the realm of possibility that autoimmunity plays a role in some forms of depression.

Posted by: ihave4ducks | May 26, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Whoops---sorry for the double post.

Posted by: ihave4ducks | May 26, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

It really does seem like a normal reaction to be depressed if suffering from severe allergies. I know that my husband and I have gone through feelings of frustration and anxiety so I bet depression is another emotion that goes into the mix too. Our son is fortunately a lot better now that he takes his children's chewable probiotic from Belly Boost...but it was a long and difficult first few years of his life because we felt so helpless.

Posted by: smilinggreenmom | May 31, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see research that looks at gluten as a possible cause of depression, irritability and anxiety. My experience is that it is.

Posted by: Plee2 | June 1, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

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