The link between allergies and anxiety

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction which can be life threatening. Symptoms can start within seconds or minutes and usually progress quickly, so it needs treating straight away.

As anaphylaxis can be serious, and you don’t know when a reaction might happen, this can cause stress and worry to those who have it and their friends and families. Feeling like you have to always be vigilant can cause anxiety even around simple daily tasks.


Getting advice and information

Not having reliable high-quality information can add to the feeling of anxiety that people with anaphylaxis sometimes live with. Having a good understanding of the symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to treat them can help you manage anxiety and feel more in control. If your allergy is triggered by food for example, learning how to avoid that food will help you manage your allergy.

It’s important to get high-quality information from a health professional. Seeing your GP is the first step, and they may refer you to an allergy clinic and/or a dietitian. You can also find information on this website, covering different allergies including foods, insect stings, animals, natural rubber latex (NRL), drugs and exercise.

See the different types of allergy.

If you or someone in your family has a serious allergy, people around you will also need reliable information, including friends and people at school or at work.

How can we help?

Videos and podcasts

Anxiety and the Impact of Living with Serious Allergies

Simon Williams from Anaphylaxis UK sits down with Chrissie Jones, Professor in Clinical Health Psychology at the University of Surrey. Together, they discuss the mental health support available for individuals living with a serious allergy. Professor Jones provides valuable insights and guidance for those seeking support for their mental health in the face of a life-threatening allergy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to support people with a serious allergy

Dr. Rebecca Knibb, Chartered Psychologist and Health Psychologist, discusses how individuals with serious allergies and related anxiety can access psychological support. Dr. Knibb, with her extensive experience in conducting research on the psychological impact of allergies, provides valuable insights and advice for those seeking to get involved in allergy research.

Coping strategies for allergy-induced anxiety

You may find one or more of the following strategies helpful for managing anxieties triggered by allergies.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave. It is often used to treat anxiety and depression.

    Research has shown that CBT, combined with accurate information about the risks involved with allergies, can be helpful in reducing anxiety in mothers who have children with food allergies. Importantly, the mothers gained a more realistic understanding of the risks their children faced – as the risks were lower than they imagined.

    CBT can also be helpful for developing a ‘risk strategy’ for weighing up the risks of a given situation, how you can reduce the risk, and whether it’s a risk you are willing to take. All allergies bring an element of risk so it’s important to assess how much is acceptable for you. For example, some patients feel eating out would be too risky, whereas others feel this is a risk they want to take and make plans to manage the situation.

    CBT is not suitable for everyone but it could be worth considering if anxiety is impacting your everyday life and restricting ordinary activities.

    In many areas of the UK you can get psychological therapies, including CBT, on the NHS. You don’t need a referral from your GP – you can refer yourself directly. Choose a CBT therapist who is accredited by The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies. You can find one in your area at

    In Scotland, it is not possible to self-refer for CBT. Your GP or another healthcare professional may be able to refer you to a qualified therapist for free treatment on the NHS. However, waiting lists for NHS treatment in Scotland are often long.

    The NHS funded Living Life service offers telephone support to people in Scotland through cognitive behavioural therapy. You can refer yourself for an assessment by phoning 0800 328 9655 (Monday to Friday: 1pm – 9pm).

  • Mindfulness

    You can also try Headspace, which offers mindful exercises, breathing and relaxation techniques. Headspace is online so it’s available wherever you are.

  • Deep breathing

    Deep breathing exercises are useful for easing stress, anxiety and panic. They only take a few minutes and you can do them anywhere. Adults and children alike get the most benefit by doing the exercises regularly as part of a daily routine. You can do them standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.

    Here’s an example of a deep breathing exercise:

    • Put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.
    • Slowly draw in a deep breath while you count to four. This deep breath should fill the bottom part of your lungs and make your stomach move outwards – try to get the air into this lower part of your lungs.
    • Hold your breath for the count of five.
    • Slowly breathe out while you count to seven.
    • Repeat this a few times to help you take control of your body and feel calmer.
  • Visualisation

    Visualisation is where you think about things you find restful or pleasant to help you relax. The technique can be used by adults or children. Think about a dream place – it could be somewhere you have been, somewhere you have seen in a film, or somewhere imaginary. You could be lying on a beach or walking in the countryside. Make it as restful and peaceful as possible. Imagine all the little details. How would it feel to be there? Is it warm? Is there a gentle breeze? Is it sunny? Try to imagine you are really there.

  • Physical relaxation

    This technique is particularly good for people who are constantly tense. Ideally, do this lying down comfortably. Tense all the muscles in your body for about five seconds, then release. You may find it useful to do this before bed if you have trouble sleeping.

  • Yoga

    Yoga is suitable for both children and adults to build confidence and improve concentration. By becoming more aware of your body and your breathing, yoga can help improve your ability to cope when you start to feel anxious or upset. There are many yoga classes available in the UK, both online and in person.

  • The Triple P Programme

    The Triple P Positive Parenting Programme® is a parenting and family support system designed to prevent and treat behavioural and emotional problems in children and teenagers. It aims to prevent problems in the family, school and community before they develop and create family environments that encourage children to realise their potential. There are Triple P parenting groups in many London boroughs and UK cities, funded by local authorities.

Looking for books about allergies?

See our book page

Getting information for going on holiday

People sometimes feel vulnerable when going on holiday, particularly overseas, because there can be a lot of unknowns. Take a look at our helpful tips on getting ready for your trip, air travel, eating abroad and storing your medicines, so you can travel with confidence.

Debunking the myths

There is a lot of false information out there, particularly on social media. For example, the level of risk faced by someone with a food allergy is often exaggerated in the media. Whilst anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and needs to be taken seriously, fatal reactions are rare.

You can check any information you find by calling our Helpline (01252 542029) or emailing