Allergic Rhinitis May Be Psychosomatic

What causes allergic rhinitis? In this article, we explain this condition as a psychosomatic disorder.
Allergic Rhinitis May Be Psychosomatic

Last update: 11 June, 2021

Some areas of psychology, more particularly psychoanalysis, suggest that repressed feelings, desires, and problems manifest themselves in the form of health problems. One such disorder is allergic rhinitis.

Psychosomatic diseases are those in which a psychological condition determines an organic problem. Such disorders are usually resistant to medical treatments. In fact, they only seem to be relieved by a mental approach. This seems to be the case with allergic rhinitis, along with certain other allergic conditions.

Allergies are disproportionate immune system reactions to typically harmless stimuli in the environment. In allergic rhinitis, the body reacts instantly to a specific factor. It releases antibodies and generates inflammation in the mucous membranes.

Why does this occur from a psychosomatic standpoint?

The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of the state of your mind.”

-Wayne W. Dyer-

A man blowing his nose.

Allergic rhinitis

In allergic rhinitis, the nasal mucosa becomes inflamed. Sufferers often feel that their nose is stuffy, which makes breathing difficult. They also experience itching, irritation, and a runny nose. This is usually accompanied by sneezing and conjunctivitis. The condition poses no great danger. Nevertheless, it does affect the sufferer’s quality of life.

People with rhinitis often have trouble sleeping. They also find their social life and general well-being affected by the condition. Furthermore, they have difficulty concentrating. The triggering factors for the disorder are diverse. They include pollen, dust, animal hair, fungi, and mites.

Cases of allergic rhinitis have increased over recent years. It’s particularly prevalent in children and teens. A considerable number of adults also suffer from it. However, it does tend to disappear with age. Experts estimate that it affects about a third of the world’s population at some point in their lives.

Rhinitis and the mind

Psychoanalyst Luis Chiozza and other authors like Dahlke & Dethlefsen claim that breathing is linked to emotions. More specifically, that there’s a link between allergic rhinitis and sadness, despondency, and depression. Chiozza claims that the sufferer actually feels snubbed and has been effectively stripped of their air.

From this standpoint, we may see allergic rhinitis as a response, not to allergens, but to a snub or a perceived lack of support. In fact, it’s like some kind of cry for help that goes unnoticed. Chiozza also suggests that it may be due to a lack of inspiration to produce creatively. In other words, the person lacks inspiration, which manifests itself in breathing problems.

Chiozza and others also associated the disorder with a need for maternal affection or, at least, safety and protection. They claim that distress affects breathing. Such anguish might be in the form of loss, abandonment, shame, or guilt.

This perspective tends to suggest that people with allergic rhinitis are extremely sensitive to life in general. Furthermore, that they’d prefer a life with no sexual or aggressive stimuli. Therefore, they concentrate this desire for “sterility” in their nose.

A woman blowing her nose.

A neuroscientific hypothesis

Recently, neuroscience has made some advances regarding the study of allergies and their relationship to the mind. In fact, a work published in Frontiers in Psychology talks about the relationship between allergic rhinitis and depression. In this study, they examined 200,000 patients.

Among the patients, around 70 percent were “healthy”. The remaining percentage suffered from rhinitis or other allergies. Based on several tests, the study found that among the “healthy” individuals, their risk of developing a psychiatric disorder was 6.7 percent. However, in allergic people, the percentage was 10.8 percent. Although this difference isn’t significant, it’s certainly suggestive.

The study also concluded that the mechanisms of these inflammatory diseases are extremely similar to those produced by psychiatric disorders. In addition, researchers noted that anti-inflammatory drugs often reduce symptoms of depression.

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  • Martínez-Hernández, L. E., Segura-Méndez, N. H., Antonio-Ocampo, A., Torres-Salazar, A., & Murillo-Gómez, E. (2010). Validación del cuestionario SF-36 en pacientes adultos con asma y rinitis alérgica. Revista Médica del Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, 48(5), 531-534.