What are allergies? Is it true that they are psychological reactions?
Allergies are sicknesses and a psychological reaction is the response in the face of sickness. One could say that the psychology could make people more prone to sickness, but it is not a direct cause.
Allergies are caused by an allergen, which is a substance that, entering into the organism, makes is sensitive to the emergence of an allergic reaction. Common allergens could be environmental agents that come in contact with the skin, the respiratory system or the eyes (such as pollen, mildew, dandruff of animals and dust). Allergies caused by food and medicines are very common. Allergic reactions can be likewise caused by insect bites, jewels, make up and any other substance in contact with the body. Some people have an allergic reaction to hot or cold temperatures, to the sun or any other physical stimuli producing symptoms.
An allergic reaction is an abnormal reaction of the immunological system to substances that are normally harmless for the majority of people. The immune system of an allergic person deals with these substances as invaders and reacts by provoking symptoms which could range from slight discomfort to severe problems that endanger the life of the person.
The main cause for suffering allergies is genetic predisposition. If your parents have allergies, you or your siblings are likely to develop them. You might also not have anyone in the family with allergies and yet you develop them.
A frequent exposition to any of the allergens does not normally cause problems, but after a time of being exposed to the same substance that did not use to harm you and after having your body recognize the substance, now your immunological system does not recognize it and reacts in an abnormal, inadequate or exaggerated way, and you may develop an allergy to something that used to be harmless.
The immunological system defends the body against all types of threats with antibodies. In the case of allergies this is called immunoglobuline E (IgE). When an allergen such as pollen is inhaled and enters the body of an allergic, person, the immunological system considers the allergen as an invader and a chain reaction starts. The white cells of the immunological system produce antibodies IgE. This antibodies join special cells called mastocytes, provoking the liberation of chemical substances into the blood, such as histamine. These chemical substances cause symptoms. The whole process takes place in the organ where the allergy is provoked.
Symptoms vary from person to person. Most people have slight symptoms that are not life-threatening, while there are other people who have such strong reactions that might be deadly (these are called anaphylaxia). This depends on sensitivity to the allergen. A person might not be too sensitive to pollen, but intensely sensitive to foods or medicines that might cause him or her reaction.
The part of the body that comes in direct contact with the allergen will have the symptoms. For instance, inhaled allergens produce nasal congestion, throat and nose itch, mucus production, cough, and even asthma. An allergy to food can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or serious and potentially deadly reactions. Allergies to plants produce a skin reaction. Allergies to medicine involve the whole body and are very dangerous. Some sicknesses related to allergies are eccema and asthma among many others. Allergies are sicknesses and are not contagious.
When a person knows that he or she is allergic to one or several substances, she or he could experience certain psychological reactions, such as anxiety which appears when he or she expects to be exposed to the allergen. Or, if he or she had a minimum exposure, they are anxious about developing the sickness. Anxiety is a normal emotion that prepares the organism for situations of risk with the goal to mobilize us for action.
Most recent research on allergies mention that apparently there is a certain relationship among certain psychological problems such as anxiety or depression and allergies, but it has not been demonstrated.
Other investigations about its relationship with psychological aspects are new discoveries of molecular biology. It is know that many of the molecules or substances that work as mediators in the process of inflammation of the allergic sickness, reach the brain and have effects on the nervous system. In fact, reciprocally, many mediators liberated in the immune system after situations of emotional stress work on the cells of the immune system, particularly on lymphocites and may predispose for a response of an allergic type. At the scientific level, however, we are still far from recognizing that allergies could have a merely psychological cause. Psychological factors are not considered a cause, but rather an important factor since a psychological response to stress or anxiety modifies the factors intervening in the process of responses to a the sickness.