As a food allergy parent, there are many valid reasons to have anxiety. Food allergies and anxiety seem to go hand in hand. However, there is a difference between healthy anxiety and unhealthy anxiety. In this first part of my Parent and Food Allergy Anxiety blog series, we will discuss two topics. First, we’re going to talk about what anxiety in regards to food allergy looks like. Second, we will evaluate what healthy vs unhealthy anxiety can look like. In part 2 of the series, Parents: Food Allergies and Anxiety Pt 2, we will talk about my top 3 reframes to help you manage anxiety as a food allergy parent.
The Many Challenges of Food Allergies and Anxiety
There are many challenges the parents of food allergy kids face. Especially if you do not have the support of a food allergy therapist, coach or loved ones. You have to worry about their safety, which takes up a lot of brainpower and energy. You also have to scrutinize all food and read labels carefully. These two steps alone can overwhelm even the best parent. On top of concern for your child’s safety, you may also concern yourself with others around them. How their peers and the adults in their lives might react to their food allergy. Will they be supportive or will they dismiss this potentially life-threatening difference?
There is also the discomfort that comes with constantly communicating their needs while advocating about your child’s allergies to others. Whether it is family members, the parents of a friend, teachers, coaches, or even school nurses, the education never seems to end! You also have to trust others to take care of your kiddo when they aren’t with you, which is extra difficult when they have a food allergy. Lastly, you have to help your child cope with their diagnosis. All the while managing your own fears and emotions surrounding their allergy.
Anxiety is contagious
Children and teens with food allergies are attuned to parent reactions.
Children are biologically wired to be sensitive to their parents’ emotions (on a continuum, of course) because this is vital to their survival. If children see our anxiety, they might take it on as their own and think they need to be anxious about their food allergy. This then carries on to teens with food allergies also carrying the weight of anxiety. We need to be very careful about how much anxiety our kids have!
Food allergies and anxiety impact how we interact in relationships.
We also have to be careful about how we act when we are managing anxiety. Anxiety can cause irritability, withdrawal, and make us avoidant. This can be especially troublesome when your partner is being more laid back. It can be hard when they are less concerned than you are with the possibility of an anaphylactic reaction. This can cause resentment between you and your partner. This mismatch is where one person is holding all the anxiety and the other isn’t holding any of it. It’s important to find the balance where you are both holding the anxiety.
High anxiety and the Brain
High anxiety affects our ability to learn, make decisions, communicate and advocate. Which are all things we HAVE to do as allergy parents. When we are in a heightened state of anxiety, we aren’t able to think clearly, which means we aren’t able to be there for our kiddos in the way they need us to be. Our brains are wired to always be searching for danger and when it senses danger, it begins a physiological response that goes throughout the body. The physical symptoms of anxiety are real!
Anxiety is a helpful and important emotion
While too much anxiety can lead to negative outcomes, without anxiety, we would never get anything done! Some anxiety is helpful and important for us to use to navigate through the world. If we didn’t have any anxiety, we wouldn’t have an appropriate fear of dangerous situations. It is important to befriend your anxiety and learn how to use it as a tool, and not let it carry you away.
How can we make anxiety our friend?
To begin to understand how to make anxiety our friend, we need to know what healthy and unhealthy anxiety looks like.
Unhealthy anxiety is overwhelming. It takes you from a place of being rational and in the moment to spiraling down into the pits of “what if.” You become reactionary and instead of thinking through the situation, you panic, or freeze. You might also be taking too much control or avoiding situations that need your attention. Are your accommodations appropriate to your child’s allergy as related to their doctor’s recommendations? Or are you restricting them further than they need to be restricted?
Anxiety is first and foremost a survival emotion. It is our body sending us messages to help keep us alive. Anxiety is good at its core! In the next blog post about food allergies and anxiety, we will cover some ways to work with your anxiety and find balance in how you perceive threats.
Begin Counseling for Food Allergies and Anxiety in Scotch Plains, NJ and Branchburg, NJ
If you are a parent with a child or teen with food allergies who is managing anxiety, perhaps it’s time to consider counseling for food allergies and anxiety. Our understanding therapists can help you navigate the stresses of having an allergy kid. Brave Minds Psychological Services in Scotch Plains, NJ will work with you so you can move forward with a healthy balance of anxiety. We offer food allergy and anxiety therapy for adults, teens, and children.
- Reach out to Brave Minds Psychological Services
- Meet with a caring therapist
- Get some relief from your anxiety
Therapy Services We Offer in Scotch Plains, NJ and Branchburg, NJ
Food allergy and anxiety therapy isn’t the only service that our understanding therapists offer at Brave Minds Psychological Services. For adults, we provide trauma therapy, EMDR Therapy, couples counseling, postpartum counseling, and birth trauma therapy. We also provide support for teens and children. This is why we offer teen anxiety treatment, social phobia therapy for teens, child sexual abuse therapy, child anxiety treatment, and more. Wanting more than individual therapy? Our therapists also offer several options for group therapy. Our services are offered in person at our Scotch Plains, NJ office and through online therapy in New Jersey.