PTSD, Food Allergies

As a mental health worker, I understand that if you’ve experienced a traumatic event, like anaphylaxis, you will have a deeply emotional response to that event. As an Allergic Girl, who's also a mental health worker, I believe that there's an extra danger: if that emotional response goes unchecked and lingers, becoming disruptive to life’s normal functioning, that trauma can easily slip into PTSD. I hypothesized that this existed for those in the food allergic community who have experienced an anaphylactic event in my forthcoming book, Allergic Girl.

So, I was very excited to see this study abstract published recently:
CONCLUSIONS: People could develop PTSD and psychiatric comorbidity symptoms after their experience of anaphylactic shock. The way they coped with anaphylactic shock was affected by the severity of these symptoms. Past traumatic life events had a limited role to play in influencing outcomes.

More studies need to be done: this was a small sample (94 people), conducted through surveys that were mailed in but I’m glad to see this beginning – a look at the very real emotional consequence from severe and life threatening responses to food and how if left unchecked can interfere with normal life functioning.

If you think you fall into this category or have noticed typical symptoms, reach out to a mental health professional trained in dealing with trauma.


I can believe it. Hell, in 1993 I almost choked to death on a popcorn kernal--I passed out and the fall dislodged it (was alone). I still can't touch it, I can't eat a meal without water near, and I can't deal with anything that remotely resembles a popcorn kernel in my mouth. I panic.

I can see a similarity there in terms of the panic/response to almost dying.

Gretchen said…
I am weirdly very grateful that my introduction to epinephrine was at my allergist's office after reacting to my routine allergy shots. I think it would be incredibly harder to deal with the sensation of panic on my own after having used a self-injector and while frantically trying to reach an ER all on top of watching for recurring symptoms. Now if I ever have to do it "in the wild" I will at least know that the feeling of panic is physiological and exactly what it feels like. This was not a traumatic experience at all because of the context: surrounded by people who would help me immediately if my symptoms worsened. I've had a few post-shot reactions there, one which needed epinephrine, and I have always felt like I was in excellent hands.

Coincidentally, they had just increased their wait time to 30 minutes, and my symptoms started somewhere between 25 and 28 minutes in... if I had been using the earlier wait time, I would have been in my car on a freeway. I am definitely happy with the increased wait time!

I know that epinephrine is definitely not something you want to take casually, but would it be crazy to introduce epi-pen users to the actual experience in an office visit rather than simply training them with a plastic mockup? I know that if I ever have to use my epi-pen in the wild I will be so much better equipped to handle the sensations. (The description really did not do it justice, and I think the physiological reactions contribute to the chance of trauma, especially if the recipient has never experienced it before.)
Unknown said…
As a researcher, more research is definitely necessary. PTSD is newer in the field than other 'responses' but hopefully the research will catch on quickly in food allergies and beyond!

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