Diabetes and mental health: What you should know
There is no question that living with diabetes means there is a lot to manage. You need to stay on top of your blood glucose levels, eat right, incorporate exercise, and consistently make healthy choices. That’s a lot of time and effort – and it can affect your emotional health. If you’re taking expensive medicines as well, that can be an additional strain. You may also be concerned about developing diabetes-related complications like heart or kidney issues.
Your mental health matters! It’s important to take care of your mind as well as your body. To begin, let’s explore the relationship between diabetes and depression, brain fog, and anxiety. That way you’ll know what to look for and how to handle it.
Depression and diabetes: Spot the signs
What is depression?
Depression isn’t the bad mood you get into when you have a flat tire, when you don’t get that raise, or when a family member upsets you.
Depression is an illness that causes you to feel deeply sad, to the point that you aren’t interested in in the activities you usually enjoy. It can affect how you feel, think, and act and may interfere with your ability to function at work and at home. To be considered depressed, you need to exhibit symptoms for at least two weeks.
Here are some sobering stats:
- People living with diabetes are 2 – 3 times more likely to be depressed than people without diabetes.
- Unfortunately, about 75% to 50% of people living with diabetes and depression don’t get diagnosed and treated.
It’s important to be on the lookout for signs of depression so that you or a loved one can get help as soon as possible if necessary.
Be aware: Possible symptoms of depression
Here is how depression can affect your emotional state:
- You may feel deeply sad, empty, or anxious
- You may feel hopeless and unable to make positive changes
- Your concentration and ability to make decisions may be affected
- You may have suicidal thoughts and/or a preoccupation with death
Here is how depression can affect your physical state:
- You may eat too much or have no appetite
- You may experience weight gain or weight loss
- You may find you are sleeping excessively or are having trouble sleeping
- You may experience aches or pains, such as headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
Why diabetes and depression often go hand in hand
It’s unclear exactly how diabetes and depression are connected, but it’s true that they often coexist. Here are some possible reasons why.
The challenges of living with diabetes can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of despair. It can feel like too much to handle.
When you’re depressed, you may not be vigilant about the state of your health, leading to behavior that could exacerbate risk factors for diabetes. Smoking, gaining weight, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor food choices can all contribute to the development of diabetes.
Managing diabetes requires energy! If you’re having trouble fulfilling your routine responsibilities, you may not have the bandwidth to keep track of your blood glucose levels.
“Diabetes brain fog”: Fact or fiction?
Yes, diabetes and brain fog seem to be a reality. This can happen if your blood glucose is too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).
Here are some of the brain fog symptoms associated with diabetes:
- Confusion and memory issues
- Fatigue, dizziness, and irritability
- Difficulty processing information, concentrating and problem-solving
Staying on top of your blood glucose levels is key for reducing the risk of diabetes brain fog.
All about diabetes and anxiety
So, what is anxiety? Anxiety is when your fear or worry is uncontrollable or overwhelming. If you are living with diabetes, you’re 20% more likely than those without diabetes to experience anxiety. There may even be a connection between anxiety and depression and developing diabetes, according to a study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.
You can get help for diabetes and anxiety – you can try therapy and/or medication. We’ll also take a look at some measures you can take for managing anxiety on your own.
Diabetes mood swings & more: Diabetes distress
“Diabetes distress” is a term for the basket of mental health issues that can be caused by living with diabetes. Depression, anxiety, mood swings – all these and more may be linked to the stress of managing diabetes. 33 to 50% of people with living diabetes will experience diabetes distress at some point.
How to manage diabetes and emotional health
When it comes to managing diabetes and your emotional health, the first step is recognizing if you are struggling and accept it. It’s important to be in touch with your feelings – don’t deny the very real issues you may be facing! Mental Health America has online screening for a variety of conditions that can help you see where you are if need be.
You can take control! Here are some things can do to help with your diabetes and mental health, whether you have depression, brain fog, or anxiety.
Stabilize your blood glucose
There are no shortcuts here – you need to stay on top of your numbers. Test often and try to identify patterns so that you can modify accordingly. What you eat, how much you move, your stress levels – all these factors can affect your blood glucose levels. The Dario blood glucose monitor and app are designed to help you manage your blood glucose effectively – you may want to give them a try. The trick is to find a method of tracking that works for you and your lifestyle and stick with it.
Work on reducing mood swings
Get energized with a quick dose of nature. Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools shows that even having a plant in a room can significantly impact stress and anxiety. Take a short walk or do a bit of gardening. It can take as little as five minutes of outdoor exercise to significantly improve your mood!
Drink this not that
Skip the double latte. Caffeine may give you a quick burst of energy but will leave you feeling tired once it wears off. Alcohol also throws your body off balance and leads to poor sleep, especially if you’re dehydrated. Stay away from drinks laden with sugar and artificial ingredients. Your best bet? A fruit smoothie with all natural ingredients.
Write it down
Another great way to explore your emotions and recognize your triggers is through keeping a journal. Many studies show that journaling, or keeping a diary, can help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. By recording what, why, and when you have negative or stressful emotions, you can focus on patterns and behaviors that may help to avoid them. And keeping a daily journal can build healthy habits and behaviors that help you work towards future dreams and goals. Ready to start a journal? Whether you write your thoughts down on pen and paper, or prefer a digital journal, our quick guide has everything you need to know about the benefits of journaling.
Don’t go it alone! Talk to your family and friends about what you’re going through. If they understand your journey, they can be supportive of your efforts. Involve them in meal planning, ask for them to join you at doctor visits, plan walks together – let them help! Make sure your healthcare team knows how you’re doing – they may know about resources for you. Some people find joining an online community is a great way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. You can try Dario’s one-on-one coaching if you’re looking for extra support. You can also check the ADA’s Mental Health Provider Referral Directory for mental health professionals in your area with expertise in diabetes care.
Diabetes can be a lot. Take care of yourself – body and soul. Find your happy place and make sure to carve out time for the activities and people you love. And remember – reach out to medical professionals if you feel you can’t cope.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.