By PT Staff, published on May 1, 1993 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015
Allergy season is bad enough with its runny noses and teary eyes.
Now there's really depressing news about ragweed time.
People with seasonal allergies--20 to 25 percent of all
Americans---may also have a predisposition toward depression, reports
Minneapolis neuropsychologist Paul S. Marshall. "Allergies by themselves
won't cause major clinical depression, but may bring on some of its
symptoms," including fatigue, emotional withdrawal, irritability, and
mood swings, says Marshall, of the Hennepin County Medical Center.
Marshall believes that allergies may cause an imbalance in the
body's responsiveness to two neurotransmitters--acetylcholine and
norepinephrine, which normally counter each other's activity in the
nervous system. In turn, this imbalance may trigger depressive behavior,
especially during periods of stress or intensive bouts of allergic
Because the biochemistry of depression and allergies is so closely
linked, depression may affect allergies, too. People with mild allergies
during childhood may suffer from very severe allergic attacks only after
experiencing a period of depression in their mid-twenties. Eventually,
the interaction between allergy and depression, compounded by stress, may
set up a vicious circle that further disrupts the neurochemistry of the
brain. Allergies may worsen.
Marshall says that psychotherapists often overlook depressed
patients' reports of allergic symptoms. But unless the allergies are
addressed, treatment of depression alone may not be successful.
Patients who experience depression and also suffer from allergies
should consider getting allergy shots or carefully avoid the allergen. If
not, they may never recover fully from either.