How seasonal allergies can affect your mood

Whether or not you personally suffer from allergies, you probably know the symptoms: runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, and sneezing. But there are other side effects that doctors are now understanding to stem from allergies, too. Mood changes, including depression, irritability, and stress, can also be caused by seasonal allergies.

Frustratingly, the effects of mood dysregulation can oftentimes persist even when the allergies have been treated.  It’s like your brain recalibrated itself, and not in a good way. 

Changes in mood


One study discovered that 20%-40% of people who suffer from seasonal allergies report feeling depressed, while more than 50% say they feel miserable or irritable because of their symptoms. Another study revealed that clinical depression is more than twice as common in people who suffer from allergies compared to those who don’t.

The connection between allergies and depression is a little obscure. Does living with the nasal symptoms of seasonal allergies make someone feel depressed? Or does being depressed make the nasal symptoms of seasonal allergies more overt? Research suggests that both theories could be true.

Another approach suggests that having allergies could be the cause of both nasal and mood symptoms. When your immune cells react with environmental allergens, they produce chemicals known as cytokines. These chemicals create the typical symptoms of sneezing and coughing that we all associate with having allergies.

However, cytokines don’t just inflame the nasal passages. They also affect the brain’s frontal lobes, which could explain why people with allergies so commonly experience depression. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that affects decision making, executive functioning and other important cognitive functions. 

There are many studies confirming this to be true. Suicide rates peak in spring when pollen levels are at their highest and symptoms of allergy sufferers are at their worst. There are no studies to support that suicides are tied to allergies however, so don’t despair. 


The reason why you feel irritable or cranky when suffering from nasal allergy symptoms is easier to explain. Having to take regular medication, not being able to do the things you enjoy outside, and struggling to get a good night’s sleep can all make you feel exasperated. Watching non-allergy sufferers go about their daily lives without any issues can even cause feelings of resentment. 


Allergy sufferers perform worse than their peers at work and at school when suffering from nasal symptoms. This drop in productivity and success levels can often lead to stress. Sometimes it may be hard to find the right allergy product to help with your symptoms. Be sure to always consult with your doctor before starting any new medications. 

Not performing as well as you could be at work or school, having to see your doctor for medications, and struggling to get enough sleep can all lead to elevated stress levels.

Other symptoms

Your mood isn’t the only side effect of seasonal allergies you may experience. One study recorded that 60% of people with allergies experience fatigue, while 80% of sufferers report feeling tired because of their allergy symptoms. Feeling lethargic all day can easily lead to depression.

Allergy sufferers’ cognitive abilities are also frequently impaired, making them feel slower. It’s difficult to determine whether the cognitive symptoms are the result of fatigue, allergy medication, or the allergies themselves.

But whatever the cause, research confirms that people with allergies experience slower decision making, slower verbal reasoning, and reduced psychomotor speed. This causes them to reason and react more slowly than usual when they’re most affected by their allergy symptoms.


Although scientists, doctors, and researchers understand there is a definite connection between allergies and mood, the reason behind the relationship between the two isn’t fully understood. 

The most popular theories suggest that it may be due to the sleep disruptions and frequent distractions experienced as a result of congestion, coughing, and sneezing. However, it could also be caused by side effects from common anti-allergy medications.

Some researchers believe the reason behind the connection is deeper than that. The behavioral changes could be explained by the release of certain biochemical signals from mast and other immune cells that directly impact the brain.

You’re not alone

If you think your allergies are the reason you’re feeling depressed, irritable, or stressed, you’re not imagining things. Research has shown there’s a clear connection between having seasonal allergies and experiencing severe mood changes. As more than 50 million people in the US suffer from seasonal allergies, you’re certainly not alone.

Contact one of our Cyti therapists today. There are many lifestyle changes you can make to treat your mood dysregulation and sleep interruptions as a result of your allergies. Everyone is different and it may take some trial and error to discover what works best for you. But by making your first appointment today, you’re making a move in the right direction.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741