Some Psychosomatic Aspects of Allergy – Psychosomatic Allergy Symptoms. You HAVE just read two newspaper articles. One of them concerns an individual whom you do not know. You think: “So what?”
The second clipping concerns you, or a member of your family or, perhaps, a close friend. Well, now, that is a different story. You read and reread the item until you know practically every word of it from memory.
The point is that the degree of interest one takes in something is determined principally by the factor of proximity. In other words: “How close does this come to touching my own lifer
Look out of the nearest window. The man coming down the street is a total stranger. You’ve never seen him in your life. It is not unreasonable to expect that you are not the least bit interested in him or how his personality impresses others.
Look into the nearest mirror. The person you are looking at is the most interesting person in the world to you. That individual’s personality and the manner in which it is projected to society are of utmost importance to you, because they are your own.
The person who is “disgustingly healthy” need consider only normal factors when determining his personality problem. The degree of positive or negative appeal he makes upon others can be controlled almost entirely through will power and the use of his mind.
Upon analyzing himself, a person of this type may come to realize that his strangest negative characteristic is the fact that he speaks too loudly. With a certain amount of effort, he can curb this tendency.
Individuals with physical handicaps find themselves with an additional problem, even if they are otherwise healthy and normal.
Compensation is the term used by the psychologists. It is a gratifying substitute in interests when one is handicapped physically. The particular behavior of the blind or the crippled is colored by these factors. Consequently, the blind often resort to the use of their hands to compensate for their defect. The quantity, as well as the quality, of the work they can do is very often astounding.
Persons who have been deprived of the use of one or more limbs often develop very active minds. If they are shut-ins and are otherwise quite healthy, they may establish wide-reaching successful businesses right in their homes. Some have edited publications, others have carried on public secretarial services.
What happens to the individual who learns that he is slightly different from the average normal person because he happens to be allergically sensitive to certain substances? Perhaps, as in the case of Bill M. reviewed in this volume, the presence of pencil sharpener dust in the air brings on a constant attack of sneezing together with the sensation of smelling flowers.
Bill, as you will recall, has been ridiculed by his co-workers, and, consequently, his behavior is affected. He may have been nicknamed “Sneezy” or something equally embarrassing. The effect of this nickname upon Bill’s dignity is devastating. As a result, he subconsciously develops a defense mechanism with which to combat the nickname. The defense mechanism may take the form of sarcasm, which, at times, may burn too deeply, further broadening the breach of relations between Bill and the jester.
If Bill finds himself obliged to defend his dignity, he may eventually become antagonistic to justify his being known as a “sourpuss.”
As time marches on, Bill becomes adjusted to the characteristics involuntarily attached to him. His personality alters itself to correspond, and presently he finds himself projecting his office personality when he is out in society.
There is one morsel of gratification in the knowledge that, by using self-control, Bill M. need not disclose his weekday characteristics to new individuals entering his life. You see, his hypersensitivity to pencil dust has disrupted his normal and positive personality without altering his physical appearance.
What about the fellow who is not quite so fortunate? Susceptibility to certain irritants may make a visible change in appearance. Such a person is to be pitied, although pity, in itself, is hardly a treatment.
Yes, it happens to a number of Marys, Bettys, Bills, Georges and Freds, and it may happen to you. External manifestations of hypersensitivity are quite common, and, although they may not be serious in themselves, they present sights that are grossly misleading.
We have only to refer to such cases as the one in which the man went into a coma after eating pork, or that in which the child developed a nasty skin eruption from sitting upon a minnow or that in which the steel mill foreman’s body was covered with a rash. These are illustrative of the thousands upon thousands of similar cases caused by as many different irritants.
These are the cases in which we find the truly pitiable and depressing stories. In many instances, those afflicted die a thousand deaths without necessity. As we have seen, some of the most violent reactions have been checked after a reasonable period of scientific sleuthing, treating and prescribing.
Let’s stop talking about the next fellow. Let us suppose that tomorrow you develop a rash, not on your arm where your sleeve will cover it, and not on your back where your shirt will conceal its presence. The rash is right on the side of your face, the first thing everyone sees when they come in contact with you. What is your psychological reaction? Will you behold the rash in a mirror, shrug your shoulders and dismiss it from your mind?
That rash becomes your personal problem and, until the problem is solved, your personality suffers.
The first thought is escapism. You don’t want to see anyone and you don’t want anyone to see you. You soon find that you can’t escape reality and that you are only getting in deeper and deeper. The rash is not improving, you’re missing time from work and something has to be done.
You ultimately decide that a physician is better able to diagnose your case, so you brace yourself for the ordeal of facing the world while you go to the doctor’s office.
You are fortunate that you do not believe in miracles, because the physician isn’t able to perform one. All he can do is to start you through his customary medical mill, and explain that you will have to make the best of things until he discovers the source of the rash. Meanwhile, convinced that, whatever it is, it is not contagious, you agree to return to work.
You know the rash is not contagious, and the doctor knows, but does the public know? You will find everybody a bit skeptical about your story, and, although some of your friends and co-workers assure you that they understand, in their own minds they are wondering whether you really have leprosy.
Carrying your brand about with you for a period of time, being stared at by people you don’t know, shunned by those you do know—these are the factors that will influence the alteration of your behavior. To make things worse, the rash continues to spread until it covers most of your face, as well as your neck, and other portions of your body not exposed to view.
Several weeks of this, then, perhaps, several months, and you adopt a new doctrine: defeatism. Life has turned against you, has taken away your normal appearance; you have practically forgotten how to laugh; your friendly nature has subsided so that you speak only when unable to avoid doing so, and you terminate your conversations quickly. You have become phlegmatic, and even the sunniest days are cloudy to you, for the brilliant sunshine seems only to mock your anguished condition.
Your interests become limited. Regular club and organization routine disappears from your schedule. Attractions outside your home are practically nil, and you are content to be alone evening after evening, interested primarily in clearing the one hurdle between you and a normal life.
As a result, your transformed psychological outlook, curtailed interests, withdrawal from activity, altered mood and generally subnormal behavior impair the quality of your personality.
The foregoing supposition of what could happen to you is only a portion of the story. You, as an adult, have developed a personality. When the source of the trouble has been found and the trouble itself eradicated, it is quite likely that, within a reasonable length of time, you will drift back to your characteristic manner of projecting yourself.
There is a story of greater basic concern, and it deals with the formative effect of bodily sensitivity upon the personality of youngsters. To see how it works, let us turn to the case of the unluckiest child in the world. This time we shall rear him from the psychological point of view.
Being born with a marked weakness for certain things, he readily yields, and the irritants do their dirty work. The parents, grieved with the thought that their son may be a weakling, are encouraged by the pediatrician’s belief that the child will outgrow these sensitivities. Meanwhile, they take all precautions. If a careful diet is necessary, that is what Junior will get.
Growing a bit older, Junior begins to realize that he is getting special care and a lot of attention. By the process of experimentation, he soon discovers that he can have his own way quite easily. At first, his wishes become requests. Later, the requests become demands.
Not wishing to upset the child, the parents capitulate to these demands, giving the child further momentum, and building within him the egoism essential to the development of a “spoiled brat.”
As he grows, his desire, both for attention and for his own way about things, is accentuated. He has friends who bow to his whims, but those who refuse to resume pampering where his mother and dad left off are unwelcome in his life.
As time passes, he becomes more and more difficult, expecting everyone to cater to him. Those who do must expect to mold their lives to conform with his. Subconsciously, then, exhibitionism creeps into his personality makeup.
As manhood approaches, his traits begin to fix themselves permanently. With a run of good fortune, he may be able to continue through life, forcing his opinion upon people. On the other hand, he may, and probably will, find many sad disappointments in his life.
Let us view some of the more common forms of sensitivity and the psychological effect they have upon personal behavior. Basically recognized as one of the most prevalent is “hay fever.” Commonly regarded as something terribly funny (when someone else has it), plain, ordinary hay fever is the undoing of hundreds of thousands of personalities each year. Even in its simple stages, it causes weeks of untold discomfort, for it attacks the highly sensitive membranes of the nose.
Only those afflicted are qualified to realize the injustice dealt to sufferers of this bodily reaction, for they alone know the feeling of a nose full of pepper, refusing to respond to hours of blowing. They alone know the agony of a dozen successive sneezes and of red eyes, glassy with tears.
So long as the average hay-fever sufferer does not need to be in bed, and so long as the ailment itself is not contagious, general opinion will continue to classify hay fever as a reaction of the body that is not too serious.
The attitude is totally unfounded, since the effect of this first-class discomfiture upon the projection of one’s personality more than offsets its apparent harmlessness as a disease.
During the fall days, when weeds are pollinating and noses running, a dozen large, clean hankies, or a giant-sized box of disposable tissues, supplant the victim’s desire for practically anything in the world. He is interested primarily in the relief of his malady.
The necessity of hiding behind a large hanky for nine out of every 10 minutes somehow draws only witty sympathy from those in his company. If the victim is a gentleman, someone generally takes advantage of the opportunity to blame hay fever upon the “weeds” under his nose, if he happens to wear a mustache.
Such fun-poking has its ultimate effect upon the victimized individual. He becomes self-conscious and develops the feeling that there is always something wrong with his face. He is haunted by the constant fear that his nose or his eyes are running, or that he will sneeze unexpectedly into the face of a business prospect.
It is to be expected that these fears will eventually show their effect upon the person’s behavior. Very often, a feeling of inferiority develops. On the other hand, the person with a nervous disposition may react differently. He may become disagreeable, grumbling at everything and everyone.
The effect of “rose fever” is quite similar, except for the fact that it goes to work earlier in the year, when the grass and trees begin to pollinate.
Either hay fever or “rose fever” permitted to gnaw into one’s body for a long period of time often makes way for a good case of asthma. Here, of course, the friendly joking comes to an end, for, although a nice, long wheeze may have the sound of a tin whistle, everyone realizes that such wheezing makes breathing very difficult.
Asthma, too, has its psychological difficulties. Those afflicted subconsciously cultivate the habit of apologizing for their asthmatic attacks. This is a defense mechanism, used because the victims fear what others may be thinking about them. And how about the individual who simply cannot get along with strawberries? At the strawberry festival, he eats heartily, and almost promptly breaks out in a blushing rash which keeps everybody away from him, believing that whatever he has may be contagious. This is no cheerful thought for the physically sensitive person.
One of the most common words in any language is “headache.” Almost everything, from a blonde to a race horse, has, at one time or another, been accused of causing headaches.
Considerable research has come to place a good deal of the responsibility for them upon bodily sensitivity.
The kind of headache a man gets from a blonde is purely mental. We are concerned primarily with headaches that hurt. Aside from such obvious causes as sinus infection, strained eyes, a cold in the head, an upset stomach or a hangover, headaches may often come from a thing as simple as a codfish ball or an apricot.
Regardless of what the irritant is that is causing your headache, you are generally very poor company when you have one. And, if you complain perennially about it, you will soon find yourself a very unpopular person. This constant pain in the cerebral region definitely affects your personality as it is projected to those about you. Can you expect to register dynamically? Not unless you’re a good enough actor to conceal your feelings, and few of us are.
The solution to a problem in sensitivity may seem to be a simple one. In many instances it is. A restricted diet, cautiously observed, is often the most effective means of avoiding recurrences of the difficulty, whatever it may be. A series of treatments by a competent physician will often build one’s resistance to the irritant that has been making him ill.
The story does not end here. The cases demanding far greater sacrifices are legion. In plain words, this business of unusual or altered reaction is often more serious than it appears on the surface. It takes little character to eliminate garlic from the diet, but it takes great courage to make a major adjustment in your manner of living.
Can you place yourself in the position of the man who, after being a baker all his life, learned that the only way to preserve his health was to change jobs?
Perhaps you are now working at a trade you have spent’ years learning. Suddenly you take ill and the doctor tells you to give up your job. You’ll have to start all over and learn something new, simply because your body reacts negatively toward printing ink, wheat, silk or fur.
As a furrier with years of experience, you suddenly find yourself faced with a serious problem. There is no branch of the business where furs are not handled to some extent. Where are you to turn? What are you to do?
A degree more serious, and of greater effect upon the personality and mental attitude of a person, is the realization that a particular sensitivity will only be checked by removal to a different climate. Consider the sacrifices that must be made: change of work or transfer to a new and foreign branch; complete disruption of social life; breaking up of the home; transferring of children to new and unfamiliar schools and, in general, a new start in life.
It must not be reasoned that only the individuals afflicted with such supersensitivity are affected. A man whose body refuses to accept orris root in any of its forms can make life pretty sad and uninteresting for his wife. Likewise, she can make things pretty uncomfortable for him, if she refuses to cooperate. In such a case, cooperation would involve the elimination of certain cosmetics from her feminine routine, for the majority of cosmetics contain orris root, an especially irritating substance. The cosmetic market is now covered for such emergencies, of course, by the evolution of products that do not contain this irritant.
Many cases on record have demonstrated that the presence of an irritant on either husband or wife was nearly responsible for marital disunion. One in particular comes to mind, concerning a young couple married less than a year.
They approached an attorney and spoke to him of “incompatibility.” During the course of the interview, when the woman was asked to justify her charges, she innocently explained that, during their brief wedded life, her husband had rarely been able to perform his marital duties.
The husband told the attorney that he was subject to serious asthmatic attacks, and that such attacks invariably came at the wrong time.
A physician friend of the attorney saw more truth than humor in the husband’s plight. With some effort, he secured permission to examine the husband. His theory proved to be right. The husband, sensitive to orris root, was merely reacting to the large quantities of it contained in a scented dusting powder his wife used on her body after bathing.
Not thoroughly convinced that the couple was beyond the point of reconciliation, the attorney, upon the recommendation of the doctor, asked that the wife discontinue the use of any dusting powders, and make another attempt to get along with her husband.
Much to the gratification of the couple, and to the satisfaction of the attorney, the case never got to the courthouse.
Another situation with the incompatibility angle concerned a man who had taken about all he could stand from his wife. With them, life was one merry battle after another. The wife was irritable to the point at which even the slightest slip of the tongue would cause her to have a tantrum. The husband felt more and more henpecked until, one day, he decided that he would take matters into his own hands.
His attorney advised that perhaps the wife was ill. A chronic ailment might easily have been the cause of her excitability. Reflecting, the husband recalled that his wife had been complaining about insomnia. It seemed as though they had hardly gotten to bed when she began coughing and wheezing. A physician properly diagnosed her difficulty as asthma, but seemed unable to locate the specific contributing factor. After a number of weeks of unsuccessful questioning, the woman broke down and offered vital information which she had previously withheld because of its personal nature.
Her husband perspired freely, and had developed a phobia, a morbid fear, of B.O. Inasmuch as his work brought him constantly in contact with people, he took precautions against this body odor by practically covering his body with strongly scented dusting powder after each bath.
It was this dusting powder that was primarily responsible for the wife’s asthma, hence her insomnia and her irritable, disagreeable attitude which nearly brought destruction to their married life.
One of the most interesting cases, in which a double sensitivity for the same irritant was nearly responsible for the ruin of two lives, concerned a young couple who had gone to see their attorneys regarding divorce. Each of them claimed there was. infidelity on the part of the other, for they had both developed a nasty rash about their genital organs. Each sadly confessed to his attorney that the other was responsible for a social disease recently contracted.
“Are you certain that’s what you have?” one of the attorneys asked.
“Well, not exactly. But what else could it be?” replied the man.
“Have you been to see a physician?”
“Why don’t you do that instead of trying to diagnose your own case?”
Individually, the couple went for medical examinations. Individually, they learned that what they had was not a social disease but merely a sensitivity to one of the ingredients in a new contraceptive jelly they had begun to use. When the medical reports were given to the two attorneys, they were convinced that infidelity was not the case at all. The clients were brought in and both husband and wife convinced each other that a serious mistake had been made, and that reconciliation was the only logical move.
Still another kind of psychological reaction to sensitivity concerns the family that is emotionally upset over the poor health of children. The father may earn a very meager wage, most of which is absorbed by the necessities of rent, food, clothing and utilities. Little is left for luxuries, and practically nothing is left for doctor bills.
Disaster strikes the household, and for months the doctor gets most of the income. The family morale drops to a new low each day, and life seems futile. Week after week, the family debt grows while the scant income continues at its low ebb.
This constant pressure lowers the personality projection level of the entire family, until each member comes to face the world as a beaten, sordid bit of humanity.
Large sums of money had been wasted in a hit-or-miss method of trying to find out what is wrong with the child or children. It isn’t until the difficulty is traced to a certain dust on the father’s clothing, carried home from the factory, that real progress is made with the case. By this time, the damage is done, and even the recovery of the child is unable to raise the family morale to the position it held prior to the illness.
Distressing, indeed, is a frustrated romance. Although two individuals have professed their love for each other, the girl refuses to chain her sweetheart to a lifelong invalid. She is abnormally underweight and cannot seem to gain, regardless of the fact that she takes halibut liver oil capsules and gets all the food and rest prescribed by the family doctor.
The young lady, afflicted with a perpetual cold, has decided that she has tuberculosis.
Their young love thwarted, each did all in his power to forget. Later the boy met another—not quite the same—and she made him a good wife. But the first love was never dead, for he carried it about in a tiny corner of his heart.
It was not until a number of years later that the girl, persuaded to be tested for sensitivities, learned that the halibut oil she had been taking all those years was a poison her body could not fight off. It was this which had kept her from gaining weight, and which kept her in the perpetual state of apparently having a cold. Having eliminated the fish liver oil from her diet, she soon built herself to a state of health she had never dared dream she would achieve. But the greater wound was still there; her love was gone.
What is to be learned from all this? We can reasonably be certain that the arm of possibility is far-reaching where sensitivities are concerned, and that their effect upon the projected personality of an individual is equally as prominent as, and ultimately of greater concern than, the physical manifestation.
We learn that, in the course of living, we are constantly offering our personalities for sale, in one way or another, and that anything which scathes the presentation of these personalities must be considered an enemy, to be eliminated as quickly as possible. Written By: Jack A. Rudolph, M.D. & Burton M. Rudolph. M.D., Continue Reading: Complications Resulting from Neglect of Allergy