Allergy And Personality
( Originally Published 1943 )
Hay feverites are misunderstood. The very description of the condition of sensitivity to plant pollens is misinterpreted. As a hay fever sufferer your sensitivity to the responsible plant pollens gives others the impression that you are psychologically sensitive.
One cannot always blame the non-allergic population for the unflattering impressions they have about persons with hay fever. Not knowing the many complexities of the condition, non-allergic persons are easily apt to misunderstand your behavior. It requires a stretch of the imagination on the part of people in general to believe that you are honestly affected by so many ordinarily trivial elements in the daily environment.
You complain when your neighbor smokes. Open windows and open doors are frequently forbidden in your house. You can't sleep on feather pillows. Cooking odors and fumes may make you sick. Dusting rugs in your presence is out of the question. During the hay fever season eating corn, peaches, or tomatoes may cause you to sneeze but they are all right the remainder of the year.
These idiosyncracies certainly do make the hay fever victim appear to be an incorrigible crank or hypochondriac of the first order. But the sad truth of the matter remains that any or all of these circumstances are real irritations. They do set off symptomatic reactions. Remove them and the symptoms are relieved.
Only the doctor, yourself, and your mother believe that your affects are not emotional. Others consider you high strung, unstable, sensitive, nervous, sickly, dynamic, queer, thwarted, frustrated, or generally maladjusted.
In a recent paper on psychological aspects of allergic persons, the authors of the article, lacking a comprehensive characterology state, "allergic persons impress one as neuropathic, soft, intuitive, pedantic and undisciplined," but the authors offer no objective proof.
The question for investigation is whether or not the bodily sensitivities have affected the dispositions of per-sons with hay fever or other allergies. Are these allergic persons as a group different from normals with respect to personality traits? Are they maladjusted as a group? Are they more introverted or extroverted?
In an attempt to answer these questions on an objective basis we included in our previously mentioned study two pencil and paper tests on personality traits. One test was a short form of the Clark-Thurstone Personality Schedule and the other was our own adaptation of Dr. Guilford's Introversion-Extroversion Scale.
The two personality trait tests were submitted to 231 allergic students and the scores compared with those obtained from 754 students used as a control group. A comparison of the results showed no significant difference in the average score for the two groups on both the personality adjustment scale and the introversion-extroversion scale. In both groups there were individuals at both extremes with a normal distribution throughout the range of scores.
From these results we find no difference in the personality adjustment of allergic persons as a group and normals.