Beyond Avoidance: the Psychosocial Impact of Food Allergies

Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2019 Aug;57(1):74-82. doi: 10.1007/s12016-018-8708-x.


Over the past few years, the rates of food allergies have dramatically increased. As a result, the lives of patients and their caregivers have been dramatically altered. While most attention surrounding food allergies has focused on treatment, less consideration has been given to the mental health ramifications of living with this condition, among them depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, being bullied, and an overall poorer quality of life. At the same time, patients' family lives are often disrupted. Parents of food-allergic children, especially mothers, report anxiety, depression, and a decreased quality of life. Indeed, mental health issues associated with food allergies are likely underrecognized. In this review, we describe not only the psychosocial impacts of food allergies but also survey treatments that can be used to address this burgeoning problem. Interventions include educating members of the greater community about food allergies, camps for food allergic children, and support groups for parents. For physicians, treatment options consist of oral challenges, proximity challenges, oral immunotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Although the existing research is built on an already strong foundation, ultimately more studies are needed to deepen our understanding of the relationship between food allergies and mental health.

Keywords: Anxiety; Bullying; Depression; Food allergy; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Bullying
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Child
  • Depression
  • Family / psychology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Food Hypersensitivity / psychology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • Humans
  • Parents / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*