Can Emotions Trigger Allergic Asthma?
Emotions have a powerful effect on how you feel each day. In fact, if you have asthma, you may notice that your emotions play a part in your symptoms.
Even though allergens are the major trigger of allergic asthma symptoms, you may experience more severe asthma symptoms or more frequent asthma attacks if you’re feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious.
Read on for more information about how your emotions can affect allergic asthma.
What is allergic asthma?
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma.
Asthma is a condition that can cause the airways leading to your lungs to swell and narrow. This, in turn, makes breathing difficult.
Asthma symptoms often include:
- shortness of breath
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain and tightness
Other forms of asthma have a variety of triggers. If you have allergic asthma, however, inhaling allergens is what triggers your asthma symptoms.
An allergen is an otherwise harmless substance that — for those with allergic asthma — will trigger a series of reactions in your immune system that ultimately cause your airways to swell.
Common allergens include:
- dust mites
- pet dander
- mold spores
While allergens themselves trigger allergic asthma symptoms, your emotions can affect the severity of your symptoms.
Allergic asthma and depression and anxiety
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), strong emotions and stress can affect asthma. The AAFA notes that depression and anxiety are associated with less control of your asthma symptoms.
A review from 2018 also indicated that those with an allergic disorder were more likely to experience depression.
Other research echoes this.
A 2008 studyTrusted Source details the links between asthma and mood disorders, including major depression and anxiety disorders. The researchers point out that comprehensive treatment that considers both asthma and mood disorders is important.
The study also notes that asthma and mood disorders share common pathophysiologies. This means that asthma shares some physical processes with these disorders.
The symptoms of anxiety and stress often mimic those of asthma as well.
Allergic asthma and stress
Mood disorders aren’t the only emotional factor that affects allergic asthma. Stress also impacts it.
While stress might not trigger an allergic asthma attack directly, it can make an allergic asthma attack more likely or more severe.
The American Institute of Stress notes that people under stress and exposed to an allergen may experience more severe allergic reactions than people who weren’t stressed when exposed to the allergen.
They cite an older study from 2009 Trusted Source that showed when participants were under severe stress, they reacted to a skin prick test with wheals (hives) that were 200 percent larger than those who weren’t under stress. Plus, these hives lasted longer than those in control group subjects.
Allergic asthma symptoms happen when you’re exposed to an allergen. And based on this information, you may have a more severe allergic reaction if you’re under stress than if you weren’t stressed.
Allergic asthma and other emotions
Other emotions and emotional responses outside of depression, anxiety and stress can also affect your allergic asthma.
The AAFA says the following emotions or responses can impact your asthma symptoms:
Some of these emotions or emotional responses can cause your breathing to change. You might find yourself breathing faster when you’re emotional or excited.
Managing emotions and allergic asthma symptoms
Managing your emotions and emotional responses may help you better manage your asthma.
Since day-to-day stress and emotions can impact your symptoms, experts suggest using different coping methods and relaxation techniques to handle stress, emotions, and strong emotional responses.
Researchers increasingly suggest practicing mindfulness to help reduce stress and manage asthma symptoms.
A 2020 study noted that when people with asthma or COPD apply mindfulness techniques, the psychological response may have a positive impact on symptoms.
The AAFA recommends trying mindful breathing and observation to help reduce stress.
If you want to try mindful breathing:
- Slowly breathe in through your nose, then out through your mouth.
- Spend 7-second intervals inhaling, holding your breath, and then exhaling.
- Try to focus only on your breath and not think about other things.
If you want to try mindfulness through observation:
- Focus on watching an object from nature that is near you.
- Don’t do anything, except observe whatever it is you picked and try to notice all the details about it.
- Continue as long as you can.
When to talk with a doctor
If your symptoms are otherwise well controlled, you may not need to speak with your doctor. But if your symptoms are starting to increase in intensity, you may want to talk with your doctor about changing your treatment routine.
If you experience symptoms of depression, you should talk with your doctor or another mental health professional.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, signs and symptoms of depression can include:
- loss of appetite
- feeling hollow or empty
- weight loss or gain
- trouble sleeping
- difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- loss of interest in activities
- feeling hopeless
- thoughts of death or suicide
- persistent feeling of sadness
- aches and pains that have no other explanation
- moving or talking slowly
- feeling restless
If you have thoughts of suicide or you know someone who is having those thoughts, you should call for emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
You should also contact your doctor if you experience symptoms of anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of generalized anxiety to watch for can include:
- easily fatigued
- sleep issues, including trouble falling asleep and having a restful night of sleep
- feeling on edge or restless
- trouble concentrating
- tension in your muscles
- trouble controlling feelings of worry
There’s a link between emotions and allergic asthma, even though allergens cause the symptoms of allergic asthma. You may notice your allergic asthma symptoms get worse during times of strong emotions.
Many people with asthma also have mood disorders like major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Managing mood disorders can help you manage your asthma.
Mindfulness can help you manage your emotions and may help your asthma symptoms. If your allergic asthma symptoms are worsening or you notice symptoms of depression or anxiety, you should talk with your doctor.