If you have ever experienced flashbacks to a severe allergic reaction, or anxiety over the possibility of future reactions, you are not alone.
A recent study published in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry found that 12% of survivors of anaphylaxis later experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and that 43% met some of the criteria for PTSD. The researchers found that survivors of anaphylaxis had similar emotional responses and coping strategies to people who had been targeted by terrorist bombings.
The experience of anaphylaxis is not just physical, researchers point out. Feelings of impending doom or that one is going to die, combined with fear of not being able to breathe are emotional traumatic experiences.
This type of trauma, in which there is an unusual and distressing event, changes the way a person experiences their environment. There is a loss of a sense of safety and increased anxiety over the possibility of another attack.
Researchers found that people who felt that they were going to die or who had experienced anaphylaxis while alone were more likely to experience PTSD after they recovered.
People who did experience PTSD tended to have less effective coping mechanisms for preventing future attacks. They were more likely to pretend the attack had never happened or avoid thinking about it by focusing on work.
Fortunately, there is hope. There are a variety of treatments for PTSD. Many of the strategies for coping with PTSD are the same strategies that can help you cope with your food allergies: seek support from friends, join a support group, exercise, and make a plan of how you will manage your allergies and cope with future reactions.