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Allergic Rhinitis is Triggered By Emotional Conflict and Social Isolation

Posted Jul 29 2010 5:54pm

Allergic rhinitis is triggered in people who struggle with emotional conflict and remain socially isolated


Allergic rhinitis attacked Harrison just as he was doubting his ability to cope
Allergic rhinitis hit Harrison earlier than usual this year. He knew it better as hay fever when he felt his nose running constantly. His stuffed up feeling and sore throat made him want to shut down, but he was due to give an important presentation in two hours time, giving details on the firm’s latest marketing campaign. 


His eyes watered, and his nose was red and sore being subjected to so many sneezes and wipes. The skin around his nostrils and lips felt dry and cracked, and his head throbbed. Each time he thought of standing up and making his case in front of the bosses his heart nearly burst out of his skin, while his palms felt clammy with sweat. Allergic rhinitis, stress and performance anxiety made him feel like two different people. The allergy made Harrison want to sleep, but the anxiety made him want to run a marathon!

Harrison buried himself in work to boost his alertness and low mood
Allergy medications didn’t help that much. They stopped the runny nose and watery eyes, but they made his mouth dry, and that was lethal for speakers.  He could already imagine the impression he would make trying to swallow, stop for drinks and clear his throat in an effort to get through the meeting. He would look and feel like a nervous school boy out of his league. Bursts of adrenalin shot through his system making him edgy, while the allergic rhinitis made it difficult to keep his eyes open and focused. He didn’t have anyone he felt comfortable talking to, spent most of his time on work with no social life to speak of. Every time he felt down, he buried himself in more work.

Allergic rhinitis detracted from Harrison's worry about not coping with this job
Harrison got through his presentation in a blur. He dosed himself up as much as he could to avoid the discomfort and embarrassment of a dripping nose and scratchy throat. He sucked on lozenges and tried to keep his mind on the details of marketing strategy. He had put cream on his cracked skin and lips so the video wouldn’t pick up the blemishes on his face. The meeting went on for an eternity as he tried to manage the stress of having to answer questions off the cuff.

It was hard to be patient and thoughtful when colleagues made long comments that detracted from his ability to concentrate. He forgot things he knew like the back of his hand. He had to read his notes several times before answering questions. He was uncertain whether he had already mentioned a detail or not. His body felt heavy with exhaustion, and yet light with anxiety and stress.

Research on Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is the fifth-most-common chronic disease in America.

Personality and allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis sufferers with no history of psychiatric problems tend to be depressive, socially introverted and under aroused ( Journal of Otolaryngology, 2003).

Allergic rhinitis sufferers both seasonal and chronic attacks, and had difficulty dealing with emotional conflict, failure and job overload.

They felt less effective and competent to manage their lives (B rain, Behavior and Immunity, 2008).

Greater isolation and a lower threshold for stimulation makes allergic rhinitis sufferers seek out stimulation by getting close to others. But they are not effective or competent in managing the feelings of arousal that closeness brings. They get overloaded quickly and it is expressed via an attack of allergic rhinitis ( Journal of Psychology Health and Medicine, 2007).

Stress and anxiety affect allergic rhinitis

A report in a 2009 issue of the journal Psychoendochronology indicates that anxiety  produced greater rhinitis type allergic reactions during the performance of stressful tasks such as those at work, where failure is a possibility.

The same article also reported that the effects of the stress and anxiety had a continued delayed reaction which was four times worse the day following the stressful tasks.

Stress hormones such as catecholamines remained elevated long after the stressful task was completed, adding to the severity of the allergy symptoms.

The research indicates that Harrison would do well to get feel connected and supported by a colleague in his company. That would reduce his fear of failure and boost his sense of self-competence and efficiency. Once he feels that he has a solid connection that he can rely on his anxiety and stress will lessen, and he will perform to a higher standard. This creates a positive cycle that keeps the stress hormones at a low level and allows his immune cells to act in his best defense.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2010

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