Psychology of the allergic patient


François-Bernard Michel Clinique des Maladies Respiratoires Hôpital Arnaud de Villeneuve 371 Avenue Doyen Gaston Giraud 34295 Montpellier Cedex 5 France


Biological hypersensitivity is the fundamental feature of atopy, and patients suffering from this syndrome are characterized by their ability to produce high levels of IgE in response to low amounts of antigen. This hypersensitivity results in a range of acute and chronic diseases, such as asthma, rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and atopic dermatitis. In addition to their biological effects, these diseases may have psychological consequences in terms of stress, anxiety or depression. However, atopic patients, far from displaying a typical depressive psychological profile, are characterized by their increased emotional sensitivity. Atopic individuals alert us to the presence of allergens but perhaps they also indicate something about our way of life. Are the symptoms displayed by allergic patients, their wheezing, sneezing or itching skin, more than a simple biological response?