Among the complications associated with diabetes, mental health issues are often the most overlooked. Mental health problems can lead to patients compromising diabetes self-management and may increase the risk of serious complications. Learn more about mental health and diabetes.
- Diabetes self-management can be demanding and there is no opportunity to take a break. The rates of depression are 2 times greater among individuals with diabetes across a lifespan. Depression is higher among youth with type 1 diabetes compared to those without the disease. Despite these statistics, only about one-third of patients with diabetes and mental health problems get a diagnosis and treatment for mental health issues.
- Diabetes and depression are linked. People with diabetes have an increased risk for onset of depression. Conversely, having depressions boosts your risk for the onset of diabetes. People with depression tend to have heightened glucose levels. Studies are being done to find out more about the link between the demands of diabetes self-management and depression as well as diabetes distress. Researchers are also exploring diabetes’ possible metabolic effects on brain function.
- The mental effects associated with diabetes are not limited to depression. Other metal health disorders patients may experience include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety symptoms can overlap with the symptoms of hypoglycemia. You should try to test your blood sugar but always treat the low blood sugar symptoms to rule it out. Some patients may over-treat themselves for hypoglycemia leading to blood sugar fluctuations with high numbers and weight gain. Knowing the difference between anxiety and hypoglycemia is very helpful to improved diabetes control.
- Young women with type 1 diabetes have twice the risk of developing an eating disorder compared to those without diabetes. Eating disorders can lead to out of control blood sugar numbers, serious diabetic complications and worsening disease. Eating disorders tend to persist and grow over time. They need to be treated professionally and as soon as diagnosed.
- The challenges of diabetes self-management may take a psychological toll on patients. Talk to your doctor about routine screening for psychological problems. Mental-health screenings can detect problems to ensure the patient gets diagnosed and treated. If you feel fatigued or disinterested in work or socialization, talk to your doctor about these feelings. Other symptoms to report to your doctor include loss of appetite, binge eating, insomnia, extreme fatigue, sleeping too much, anxiety, lacking motivation , feeling sad in the morning, feeling inadequate and/or feeling isolated, Treatments for mental health issues may include counseling, support groups and/or medication. Talk to your doctor about side effects and possible contraindications.
- Addressing mental health concerns promptly have a direct effect on your physical well-being and diabetes control. Depression can make it more difficult to successfully manage diabetes. People with depression and diabetes are over 50 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day and 5 times a week, can boost your mood and lessen symptoms of depression. Endorphins are released during exercise and can help you feel better. Other health benefits of exercise may include losing weight, lowering blood sugar levels and an increase of energy.
- Be proactive to improve your mood. Make diabetes self-management easier by keeping essential supplies on-hand such as lancets, insulin syringes and medication. Monitor your blood sugar levels and report the results to your doctor. Learn more about diabetes by working with a diabetes nurse educator. Enlist the support of family, friends and co-workers. Join a support group for people with diabetes. Learn to deep breathe or practice meditation. Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try to stay away from or limit caffeine and alcohol. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes lean meat and fish, whole grains, low-fat dairy and vegetables and fruit. Ask for a referral to a therapist or counselor if you are still feeling overwhelmed by your diabetes.
If you have diabetes and mental health concerns, you are not alone. Share your symptoms with the doctor and reach out for help. The first step toward feeling better is to admit your problems and find ways to get past them.