A resource for young adults living with severe allergy

Managing anxiety

Top Tips For Dealing With Your Anxiety

  1. It’s normal to feel anxious. Keep reminding yourself that food allergies are manageable.
  2. Tell people about your allergy especially when eating out and then ask lots of questions so you can make a choice on how safe the food actually is. Anxiety can be caused by uncertainty, if you have doubts about a particular food item ask questions until you feel you can make an informed decision.
  3. If you feel unsafe – don’t risk it!
"Anxiety is normal, unless it stops you from doing things like going out with friends."

The ‘A’ Word

Talking about anxiety and emotions is difficult and can often be seen as taboo – we all like people to think we’ve got it together. But it is only by acknowledging our feelings and experiences that we can truly start to feel better. There is no shame in asking for help.

Anxiety and Food Allergy

You know the feeling when you’re sitting, waiting for something to happen – a job interview to begin, an exam result to come back, the drop of the Tower of Terror at Dreamworld. You’re thinking over and over in your head how terrible is this going to be? You keep telling yourself it’s going to be awful and working yourself into a big mess and then all of a sudden it’s over. You’ve landed the job, you aced that maths test and you’re feet are back on solid ground. Suddenly, you don’t feel as stressed anymore. Everything is fine, and you start to think why were you so worried in the first place?

That’s anxiety.

So where does anxiety fit into food allergy? Anxiety develops from uncertainty and doubt. Living with a food allergy means there is always a risk. You have to be aware all the time, and you are constantly trying to avoid the food you are allergic too. Understandably, this can cause anxiety.

Many situations can cause us to feel anxious, particularly when you have a food allergy. Such as meeting a group of new people, or eating out at a restaurant you’ve never been to before. Perhaps you feel anxious when you’re travelling, or maybe you feel anxious even when you are just hanging out with your friends and family.

Some level of anxiety is normal as long as it doesn’t stop us from normal day to day living. It’s important to learn to deal with these anxieties so that we can live a normal life and be comfortable in our surroundings. We all need food to survive so we really need to work on the right level of anxiety to help keep us safe and not too much anxiety that restricts our life and makes us miserable.

Anxiety as a Smoke Detector

A psychologist once described anxiety using a smoke alarm analogy.

Anxiety can be thought of as like the body’s smoke alarm system. A smoke alarm can be triggered when a piece of toast is burning as well as when the house is burning down. Our anxiety can be very protective, or it can become a problem.

When anxiety gets to a level when it feels excessive, uncontrolled or intrusive, persistent or impacts on everyday life by stopping us doing things you really want or need to do, we need to address the anxiety.

So what are some ways we can address anxiety?

Confidence is key

Feeling confident in the food you’re eating is essential. If you’re not confident about something, you can:

  • Ask for more information about the ingredients if you’re at a restaurant, or a friend’s house having a meal.
  • Not eat the food.

If you choose to ask for further information and you’re not confident in the answer (or the person you have asked is not confident), it’s probably safest not to eat that particular food item.

Make a habit of having a ‘safe’ snack on hand – in case you get caught in a situation where you don’t feel confident about eating the food.

Build a support network

Make sure that the people you surround yourself with know about your allergy and are somewhat confident in helping you manage your allergy. You will feel less anxious if you’re friends and family know about your allergy and look out for you, know where your medication is kept, and when/how to use it in an emergency.

Having supporters in your court means you have people who will look out for you, and who will stick up for you when you are over it, feel anxious and/or overwhelmed.

"Anxiety is normal, unless it stops you from doing things like going out with friends."
Seek help

There is no shame in seeking help should you feel that your anxieties are taking over.

There are people out there who can help you. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call.

Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia: 1300 728 000

Content updated August 2022