This is part two of our guest article series titled, "The Psychological Aspects of Food Allergies and Celiac Disease." Guest article courtesy of Jennifer Leeson, LCSW.
If you are a parent with a severely allergic child, you know how scary and frightening it can be to take your child to a party, day care, the park, school, or church. As a counselor I have met parents who are so fearful for their child’s well-being that they end up isolating the child, themselves, and the entire family unit. While this may guarantee safety, we all know that living in a bubble is not really living. Although great caution and care must always be taken, living with food allergies does not have to mean a life of constant fear.
If you are struggling with overwhelming fear and anxiety regarding your own or someone else’s food allergies, and find that it is significantly interfering with your life, this is an indication that seeking outside help would be beneficial. The right kind of emotional and behavioral support will help you to realize that you are not alone, and that what you are feeling is normal given the circumstances. With help you can learn to work around your food restrictions instead of being confined by them.
Having been diagnosed with Celiac Disease as an adult, I can personally relate to the emotions that can accompany living with a serious food allergy. With my own diagnosis came panic over attending social functions. I was overwhelmed by the weight of having to think about every single thing I was eating. Ultimately I found myself not wanting to be around people, not wanting to go out, and feeling sorry for myself. Fortunately, I had great friends in the counseling field (including my significant other) who were able to give me the support and encouragement I needed to feel good about myself again. Also, I was able to do a lot of self work to get through those overwhelming emotions and learned to embrace my new lifestyle in a positive and life changing way.
The psychological effects of living with life changing food restrictions are deep and very real. In my own practice I focus on helping people regain their sense of self, security, and the ability to live a full life despite their dietary restrictions. You do not have to live in fear and be debilitated by anxiety just because you have celiac disease or other food allergies. A diagnosis of a food allergy becomes a part of your life but it does not have to define you. Learning effective ways to manage fears and anxieties will help you get back to living the life you really want -- full of fun, excitement, security, love, and self assurance.
Article Courtesy: Dr. Stephen Wangen
The IBS Treatment Center thanks Jenn Leeson for this month’s lead article. If you are feeling stress, anxiety, or overwhelming unhappiness caused by your own or your child’s food allergies, we encourage you to find the support you need through counseling, therapy, or a local support group.
To find a support group in your area, check out one of the following websites (just click the name):
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America
Celiac Sprue Association USA
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
Washington FEAST (local, grass-roots support group for families dealing with food allergies)
de Blok, M.J., et al. (2007). A framework for measuring the social impact of food allergy across Europe. A EuroPrevall state of the art paper. Allergy 62 (7), 733-737.
Cummings, A. J., et al. (2010), The psychosocial impact of food allergy and food hypersensitivity in children, adolescents and their families: a review. Allergy, 65: 933–945.
Lee, A., MSED, RD. & Newman, J.M., Phd, RD (2003). Celiac diet: Its impact on quality of life. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 103, Issue 11, Pages 1533-1535.
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