Friday, March 12, 2010

Food Allergies and Anxiety

I read a post the other day about food allergies and anxiety.  It was written by a fellow blogger and mother of a peanut allergic daughter.  She wrote about a study that indicates that it's not uncommon for children with food allergies to express a lot of anxiety and how she was seeing this first hand in her 10 year old daughter.  It got me thinking and doing some research of my own.

I "interviewed" Abigail to see how she feels about having an allergy to peanuts and to see if her anxiety (manifested as a frequent belly ache around bedtime) could be contributed to her allergy.  Getting her to open up and express herself is about as challenging as getting her to clean her room, so our discussion was very brief.  Here's our conversation:

Does having a peanut allergy make you feel anxious?  No
Does knowing that you can have any allergic reaction scare you?  No
What makes you nervous about having a peanut allergy?  Nothing
Do you trust mommy and daddy to give you foods that are safe?  Yes (Although, if it's a new food, she will ask me if I'm really sure)
Do you trust anybody else to give you foods that are safe?  Yes, Family  Anybody else?  Really, really good friends  Anybody else?  No
What's the worst thing about having a peanut allergy?  Can't eat things I want to.
What do you think makes your stomach hurt (i.e., anxiety)?  I don't know.
Does going to Duke make you anxious?  No
Does anything about the clinical trial bother you?  No  Not even the blood draws?  No, not scared.

And that was the end of our conversation as she ran off to do more important things. Regardless of her casualness, I do know that I've seen an increase in her anxiety level this last year.  I also know that hers are the sentiments of someone that hasn't experienced anaphylaxis.  The tingling that she has in her ears, mouth and throat as a side effect of her clinical trial drops is a nuisance at most.  The one occasion of getting the drops on her tongue that sent her into a panic is a distant memory.  My blogger friend's daughter who has had a severe reaction and gone into anaphylaxis wouldn't answer these questions at all in the same manner.

There are two topics at hand here.  The first is being anxious about the allergy and the second is being anxious because of the allergy.  Very subtle difference, but both worthy of an in-depth look.  Abigail is not anxious about having a peanut allergy, she's had it her entire life and knows no difference.  In fact, the biggest downside for her is not feeling alienated or anxious of having a reaction as expected, but instead, it's not being able to eat whatever she wants. However, in this last year, she has experienced an increase in anxiety, and I'm wondering if there's any chance that it's a side-effect of her allergy. If she is getting the peanut drops and not the placebo in her trial, and I have reason to believe she is, then she's being exposed to peanuts on a daily basis.

I'm up to my elbows in research right now looking at food allergies and their relationship to anxiety and to ADHD (something else I see signs of in Abigail).  There's too much to cover in this post so I'm thinking I'll break it up and look at anxiety as a result of having a food allergy and anxiety as a symptom of having a food allergy as separate topics. In the meantime, please share your stories if you too are dealing with allergy related anxiety in your household.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Abigail is a brave little girl. Hopefully one day in the near future the anxieties will be a distant memory. And she will one day know she helped so many others. Continued prays for all of you!