Allergies and Relationships

Dr. Srini Pillay
4 min readDec 11, 2019

How your deep psychological needs could lead to allergies

Source: grinvalds/iStockphoto

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to something foreign. In the case of a reaction to pollen or certain foods, the body’s response is physical. Yet, according to French psychoanalyst Pierre Marty, the cause may be psychological.

Marty observed that there are distinct psychological traits that he has observed in allergic individuals.

Before I delve into these more abstract ideas, let me say that Marty himself saw his observations as a work in progress. He was by no means saying that this one view is the only psychological reality in allergic patients, and neither am I.

A mother’s stress and baby’s allergies: Marty was convinced that the body’s overreaction in allergic patients was developed prior to birth, during the pregnancy phase. Certainly, more recent studies have confirmed that maternal stress during pregnancy correlates with food allergies in their children. And this stress also correlates with more wheezing in children in the first year of life. So Marty seems to have hit on something important with his clinical observations.

While the precise mechanism for this is not known, we do know that stress knocks a key brain hormone system off kilter in mothers, and the resulting changes probably affect the infant. These stresses could, in theory, be environmental or psychological—like being worried about bringing a baby to term, or having significant ambivalence about the pregnancy.

The violent need to possess and control: In any case, Marty noticed that stress during pregnancy seemed to be correlated with his allergic patients (the children) having certain exaggerated psychological traits that showed up in their relationships. While many people experience passion and strong connections when they meet a good friend or lover, in allergic patients this initial reaction was exaggerated.

In Marty’s words, the allergic person takes up the person who is an object of affection immediately, completely and violently at first. There is such a strong identification with this person that the allergic person cannot tell the difference between themselves and the other person. This leads to a confusion of identity, which the allergic person experiences. Once…

Dr. Srini Pillay

Harvard-trained Psychiatrist. Chief Medical Officer: Reulay; Brain Researcher. Executive Coach. Author: Tinker Dabble Doodle Try,