Help For Managing Food Allergy Anxiety

If contact with peanut dust can trigger anaphylaxis in your child (or yourself), managing anxiety may seem more difficult than managing the allergy.

How can you stop the pessimistic, worst-case-scenario thoughts that go through your mind as your nut-allergic child goes off to school or a birthday party?

Using Pessimism

According to Wellesley professor and psychologist Julie Norem, negativism has its place. While some individuals are innately optimistic, others thrive by using what Norem calls “defensive pessimism” to curb anxiety and manage uncertainty.

Norem studied people who seemed to succeed because of their pessimism. She determined that defensive pessimism is a process by which negative thinking changes anxiety into action.

Defensive pessimism is not an ultimate solution to problems and like any strategy it has pros and cons. Yet, for some people, it is a strategy that allows them to face their fears – to confront instead of deny their feelings.

Two Strategies That Work

Both strategic optimists and defensive pessimists can be high-functioning and successful people. One way they differ is in their approach to achieving a goal and dealing with the accompanying anxiety.

  1. Strategic optimists decide what needs to be done and set about accomplishing tasks without much reflection or angst. If something goes amiss, optimists shrug, regroup, and go onto the next chosen step.
  2. Defensive pessimists set low expectations and then think over all the dire outcomes imaginable. They typically rehearse all possibilities until they know everything necessary to do for a shot at success. Defensive pessimists continue to worry and fend off disasters as projects progress.

Defensive pessimists can seem negative and off-putting to others. Yet, pessimism is how they deal with anxiety so it does not keep them from doing what they want or need to accomplish, such as managing a severe food allergy.

Managing Allergy Anxiety

If you are struggling with anxiety and negativism about your own or your child’s food allergy, Norem’s book may offer a couple things.

First, it validates and gives purpose to a nervous-Nellie approach to uncertainty – an approach often considered a negative. Second, the book shares strategies for capitalizing on defensive pessimism, should that be your natural coping style.

Looking at the positive side of negativity may also help couples who struggle with having opposite life strategies. It is difficult for strategic optimists to understand why pessimists waste energy on countless "what-ifs". However, Norem’s perception of defensive pessimism makes this positively negative strategy understandable to others.

Source: Norem, Julie, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, Basic Books, 2002.
Photo credit: Son of Groucho / flickr creative commons

Peanut Free Store

Community

More Articles

You already know that if you or your child has a peanut allergy you need to avoid peanut butter. Some...

So many wonderful recipes call for peanut butter. These recipes can still be enjoyed by experimenting with peanut butter replacements.

...

Are you craving sweets? Those with peanut allergies must be especially careful when indulging their...

For those with peanut allergies, baked goods present a serious risk. Many baked goods do not appear to contain peanuts, yet were baked in a...

Those who have peanut allergies know to avoid peanut butter cookies, of course – but what about other...

For anyone who has had a peanut allergy diagnosis, it is necessary to avoid eating peanuts entirely. However,...

Are you looking for peanut-free candies as a special treat for a child with...

Do you know what's in the face paint often used for Halloween costumes, school carnivals, and other events? If you're worried about smearing...

Vegetable oil is healthy before it is hydrogenated and a process that requires adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats. Oils that are often...

Peanut allergies don’t begin to cause problems for people the first time they are exposed to peanuts. Rather, the immune system first develops...

Anxious food allergic kids, understandably concerned about avoiding allergens, can become so restrictive in their food choices that weight loss...

The relationship between anxiety and food or other allergy is a complicated and puzzling one. Research has shown that stress can exacerbate...

Welcome to PeanutAllergy.com. Before you begin you must verify your email address. Please check your email and click on the link and you will...

If you have a food allergy, you will probably need to make some changes to your diet...

When love is in the air we can get caught up in the moment and throw caution to the wind. However, if you have a...

Just 30 seconds of mindfulness, of quieting our thoughts by being attentive to the present moment, can help manage stress and anxiety.

The...

Those affected by peanut allergy might have heard about basophil activation tests (BATs), a potentially accurate tool for diagnosing food allergy...

When your child has a food allergy, you want to make sure they are safe in school...

It’s the time of year when holiday parties, and family gatherings can make allergen avoidance more problematic. Whether you celebrate Christmas,...

Food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise. Almost everyone knows someone who has problems with at least one food. The most common food...