The Link Between Allergies and Depression

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Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a particular substance, causing symptoms such as hives, sneezing, runny nose, or itching. Allergies are common in the United States, with an estimated 50 million Americans suffering from some type of allergy.

Several studies have found an association between allergies and depression. This connection is not completely understood, although some symptoms of allergies, such as fatigue or difficulty sleeping due to congestion, may contribute to depression.

This article reviews the allergy-depression connection, how to treat depression, and tips for improving your mental health.

Sad woman with allergies

Moyo Studio / Getty Images

How Are Allergies and Depression Linked?

Several studies have shown a link between allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and mood disorders, including depression.

The cause of this is not completely clear, but studies suggest a genetic component between allergies and mental health conditions, like depression. Another hypothesis is that inflammatory chemical mediators, such as cytokines, may be responsible.

Poor sleep caused by allergy symptoms may also lead to depression, as well as side effects caused by allergy medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Disinterest in daily activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of appetite

How to Improve Mental and Physical Health

The following are some tips for improving the mental and physical health of people suffering from allergies and depression, or for people who are concerned about the risk of these conditions:

  • Get enough sleep. If you have trouble sleeping due to allergy symptoms, such as congestion or even sleep apnea, work with a qualified healthcare provider to resolve these issues and improve your sleep quality.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Outdoors may be best, but individuals with pollen allergies may benefit from exercising indoors while pollen counts are high.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Practice positive thinking, and consider meditation or other relaxation techniques.
  • Reach out to friends and family for support.

Don't hesitate to get help from a qualified mental health professional, if necessary. Psychotherapy (talk therapy), particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), has been proven effective in treating depression.

What If Improving My Allergies Worsens My Mental Health?

Most allergy treatments are unlikely to worsen your mental health.

However, certain medications used to treat allergies have been linked to depression or are known to interact with medications used to treat mood disorders, including depression or bipolar disorder.

For this reason, it's important that you consult with your healthcare provider, as well as your pharmacist, so they can review each medication you're using and provide options that preserve your mental health while treating your allergies.

Any time you start a new medication—for either allergies, depression, or another mood disorder—review your complete medication list with your healthcare provider to ensure it is unlikely to interfere with the other medications you are taking. Do not assume your healthcare provider is aware of every medication you are on.

If your allergy medication is causing depression, you may be able to treat your allergies with a different medication that is less likely to cause this side effect. For example, intranasal sprays for congestion are less likely to cause side effects than a systemic antihistamine that affects the whole body, because less of the medication is absorbed into the bloodstream.

When to Call Your Provider

If you suspect that your allergy medication is causing feelings of depression, it's time to call your healthcare provider. Left unaddressed, your symptoms may worsen. Your provider can help you explore alternative treatment options that may decrease your allergy symptoms without making you feel depressed.

Depression Treatment

There are different types of depression, including:

While there is some overlap, treatment varies depending on the type of depression you are diagnosed with.

All types of depression typically are treated with a combination of:

  • Psychotherapy, particularly CBT
  • Medications, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Counseling and lifestyle adjustments, such as getting good quality sleep or increasing physical activity

Allergy Symptoms Alone May Cause Depression

Since allergy symptoms alone may be responsible for depression symptoms, in cases that are not too severe, your healthcare provider may recommend treating allergies first to see if your depression subsides.

Getting Help

Getting help for depression often starts with contacting your healthcare provider.

Depression is a common condition, so many healthcare providers have experience treating it and can provide you with other resources as necessary. You may need to find a mental health counselor or therapist, but your regular healthcare provider can provide you with recommendations.

If you have healthcare insurance, your insurance company may offer a list of providers that will accept your insurance.

Emergency Help Is Available

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Summary

Both allergies and depression are common conditions capable of seriously impairing your quality of life and ability to complete everyday activities. Research suggests a link between the two.

Both conditions can be treated, but sometimes medications used to treat allergies and depression can interact in a negative way. When this occurs, work with a healthcare provider to find a solution that treats both conditions while minimizing negative side effects.

A Word From Verywell

Allergies and depression are both serious healthcare conditions that can be challenging to cope with. However, there are several available resources and treatment options to address them. Treatment should not be delayed, as both conditions can worsen if ignored. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you can feel like yourself again.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can untreated allergies cause depression?

    Yes. Untreated allergies can cause depression symptoms. If your depression is not severe, your healthcare provider may recommend treating your allergies first to see if this alone will cause your symptoms of depression to subside.

  • Can reducing allergy symptoms improve your mental health?

    Yes. Reducing allergy symptoms can improve your quality of sleep and the way you feel physically, which often improves your mental health.

  • What are some effective ways to improve mental and physical health?

    There is a direct link between mental and physical health. Some quick ways to improve both are to get plenty of sleep, increase exercise, and eat a balanced diet.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy facts and figures.

  2. Amritwar AU, Lowry CA, Brenner LA, et al. Mental health in allergic rhinitis: depression and suicidal behaviorCurr Treat Options Allergy. 2017;4(1):71-97. doi:10.1007/s40521-017-0110-z

  3. Budu-Aggrey A, Joyce S, Davies NM, Paternoster L, Munafò MR, Brown SJ, et al. Investigating the causal relationship between allergic disease and mental health. Clin Exp Allergy. 2021;51(11):1449-1458. doi:10.1111/cea.14010

  4. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression.

  5. MedlinePlus. How to improve mental health.

  6. Gautam M, Tripathi A, Deshmukh D, Gaur M. Cognitive behavioral therapy for depressionIndian J Psychiatry. 2020;62(Suppl 2):S223-S229. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_772_19

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.