A few years ago, I started noticing that I was feeling very isolated, panicked at times, sad & upset. The next year I noticed that the feelings returned, and also realized that they usually were happening right after work and I was often wondering “What the fuck is wrong with me?” during my 15-minute drive home from the office. Coincidence? I put together that it was during allergy season, particularly the onset around the first week of March. I immediately decided to blame it all on the over-the-counter medication I was taking for allergies. I switched to another OTC allergy pill and forgot about it again.
The next year, after I powered through allergy season, by summer it was very apparent to me that I was not doing so well in general, and I went to my doctor knowing that I was depressed. Time had given me perspective that this yearly carnival ride was not due (at least not entirely) to allergy medicine, but the allergies themselves. I requested an appointment with an allergy specialist and reacted highly to 18 out of 20 allergens in a scratch test. The doctor was dilly-dallying around for a while after the welts presented themselves and the medical assistant had helped him document the reaction scores, and I wanted to choke him for some calamine lotion to quell the itchy discomfort organized in a grid on my pasty white back.
During this time I was desperately searching for The Reason I was depressed, so I was looking at information that linked allergies to depression and anxiety. Allergies definitely played a part in my depression, and presented itself more as anxiety during the beginning of allergy seasons. Depression is in part a state of high inflammation, and with allergies this inflammation is exacerbated. There is also information that points to inflammatory compounds that enter your brain, and also the reduction of serotonin, both of which can alter your mood, and can keep you in a depressive state long after the inflammatory particles have made their way through your body.
I was reminded that I should be writing more about this for my blog today since I woke up in a fairly good mood this morning, which quickly turned sour when I got to work (check it out – walking through the outside air, even for a few minutes, during mid-late morning through the evening during allergy season, can get enough pollen into your body to make you feel like an asshole or also a real sad-sack, or both). I tried eating lunch at a quiet table and a very talkative person joined us, and I quickly made it clear that I didn’t feel like talking by stating my grumpiness level and staring at my phone as if I’m not on the internet all day for work. It feels less hopeless than years past that I can point to allergies as the reason for my semi-permanent Jerkface Mode, but for some people there are more serious ramifications for having seasonal allergies. I’ve included some links for further reading below, and would love to read more if you have come across other good resources:
- The Link Between Allergies & Depression
- NY Times – Allergies Can Increase the Risk of Depression
- PubMed Abstract – Allergy: a risk factor for suicide?
Edit: I’ve written a followup post to this one: Seasonal Allergies Follow-Up & Tips