diabetes and mental health
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Do you know the importance of taking care of your mental health while managing diabetes? If the answer is ‘no’, then read on to know why you might need to reprioritise.

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be confusing and overwhelming.1 It may feel like a threat not only to your health but also to your way of life. Managing diabetes includes tracking your blood sugar levels, planning your meals and the doses of insulin.2 It’s a lot of work, and it can get emotionally draining.3 You may become so involved in looking after your physical health that caring for your mental health takes last place in your list of priorities.4

However, taking care of your mental health is paramount to living a healthy life. If you ignore mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, it can make your diabetes much worse.5 But, if you address them, then your diabetes tends to get better too.4

The diabetes-mental health connection

Managing your diabetes may be burdensome. You may start to feel a bit overwhelmed and have very little energy to carry out essential tasks in managing your condition. This could lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels, which can cause symptoms such as:

  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety

Diabetes may result in a condition called diabetes distress; its symptoms are similar to stress, anxiety and depression. It is estimated that 30-50% percent of people with diabetes will experience diabetes distress at some point.5

Stress and anxiety

Stress may be a part of your day-to-day fast-paced life. Additionally, you may also worry about having abnormal sugar levels, the cost of medicines and the risks of diabetes-related complications. The stress you feel may manifest as an emotion, like anger or fear, or a physical reaction, like a racing heart or sweating, or even both.4

Uncontrolled anger may feel good and empowering sometimes, but it can be harmful to you and your loved ones. It may affect your relationships at home and at the workplace, unless you learn to manage it. Here are a few things that will help you control your anger:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Sit down, lean back and try to relax
  • Shake your arms loose
  • Work on calming yourself
  • Take a walk2

Anxiety is the feeling of worry, fear or being on edge. People with diabetes are 20% more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety than individuals without diabetes. Managing a chronic illness like diabetes may create anxiety for some people.4

Some simple strategies that may help you cope with your stress and anxiety are:

  • Paying attention to your feelings
  • Asking for help to cover the cost of diabetes treatment
  • Talking to your loved ones and allowing them to help take care of you
  • Making time for the activities you love6
  • Relaxing with techniques such as yoga and meditation
  • Limiting the intake of alcohol and caffeine, adopting healthy habits and sleeping well4

Depression

Depression causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that you do daily. The risk of depression in people with diabetes is more than twice that in people without diabetes. However, depression can be hard to detect. It may affect your productivity at work, your home life and your ability to manage your diabetes, thereby leading to complications such as nerve damage and heart disease.4

Spotting depression is important. The following symptoms may help you identify depression:

  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Change in appetite
  • Loss of energy
  • Guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Declining school and work performance
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Waking up earlier than normal
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Nervousness
  • Morning sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities2

Therapy

The acceptance of diabetes is the first step towards taking care of your health. It may feel uncomfortable to talk about feeling sad or depressed. However, visiting a doctor who is well equipped to take care of your mental health is the first step to a healthy mind and body.

Your diabetes care physician may refer you to a mental health practitioner. Professionals can understand your mental health condition and help you work through many things that may cause stress and anxiety. Your doctors may work together to help design a treatment plan that will help you take care of your body as well as your mind.5

So, take charge of your mental health and tackle diabetes successfully.2

References:

  1. American Diabetes Association. Newly diagnosed [Internet]. [cited 2019 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/newly-diagnosed
  2. American Diabetes Association. Mental health [Internet]. [cited 2019 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/mental-health
  3. American Diabetes Association. Mental health: living with type 1 [Internet]. [cited 2019 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-1/mental-health
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and mental health [Internet]. [updated 2018 Aug 06; cited 2019 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/mental-health.html
  5. Mental Health America. Diabetes and mental health [Internet]. [cited 2019 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.mhanational.org/diabetes-and-mental-health
  6. Centers for disease control and prevention. 10 Tips for coping with diabetes distress [Internet] [updated 2019 Oct 08; cited 2019 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/diabetes-distress/ten-tips-coping-diabetes-distress.html

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for patient awareness only. This has been written by qualified experts and scientifically validated by them. Wellthy or it’s partners/subsidiaries shall not be responsible for the content provided by these experts. This article is not a replacement for a doctor’s advice. Please always check with your doctor before trying anything suggested on this article/website.