Diabetes' Impact on Mood and Mental Health

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro
  • It has long been known that medical conditions play a role in your emotions (see blog on Diabetes and your Emotions). Generally, most people are able to overcome the ebb and flow of unpleasant emotions and move forward. However, many adults and teens develop more complex feelings related to diabetes that prevent them from functioning well in their usual surroundings at home, school, or workplace. When your feelings or behavior prevent attention to normal activities, it is time to seek help. Many diabetes teams have a psychologist or a clinical social worker that may be able to help you or they may refer you to another healthcare provider. There are a number of common psychological conditions that are known to be associated with diabetes, including anxiety, denial, depression, diabulemia, and drug or substance abuse.

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    Anxiety is extremely common-it is natural to be anxious when learning how to give insulin injections, carbohydrate count, check blood sugars, etc. If you have mastered these technical activities (and are functioning well with your diagnosis) and are STILL feeling anxious, it is time to have a talk with someone who understands. Anxiety is not always a bad thing; it may prevent you from doing something that is not in your best interest. But if your pervasive mood is one of anxiety, I believe it is time to seek assistance.


    Denial, another common coping mechanism, often occurs after we are told something that is too awful to comprehend or manage. We use denial to get us through the day, to allow us to go to school or work, to prevent us from feeling pain. It works...initially. Denial is a dangerous coping mechanism that can lead you down an unwelcome path. Denial prevents us from checking blood sugars, counting carbohydrates, and even taking insulin appropriately. If denial prevents you from moving forward in your daily life and taking care of your diabetes, once again, it is time to get support.


    Depression is extremely common in both adults and teens with diabetes. One of the biggest causes of depression in association with diabetes is the feeling that the diabetes is in control of you and your life, making you feel somewhat hopeless and out of control. High, low, and variable blood sugars contribute to feelings of sadness and the inability to manage both simple and complex tasks. Everything becomes overwhelming and the helplessness can spread to other areas of your life and affect relationships and school work. Once again, if you start to feel that it is tough to begin the day, life has become too complicated, or you are just too frustrated to care for your diabetes, it is time to seek a behavioral healthcare professional. In my experience, one key to becoming undepressed is for you to take control of your diabetes and not let it control you. A counselor can help you to find the particular key that will unlock your depressive mood. If at any time you feel that you just can't go on, and want to harm yourself in any way, please let someone know as soon as possible as this is a true emergency and intervention is necessary.


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    Diabulemia (diabetes in association with bulemia) is a popular topic in blogs, newsletters, and professional publications. Diabulemia is one variation of eating disorders. It is a very serious condition that can lead to death if not treated. In diabulemia, people with diabetes omit insulin so that they can lose weight. How does this weight loss occur physiologically? Without insulin, glucose cannot get into cells and provide them with energy, which is necessary for survival. The body compensates by breaking down fat and muscle tissue-an extremely inefficient means of creating energy. Ketones may result with persistent fat breakdown in association with decreased insulin, leading to diabetic ketoacidosis. In addition, many electrolyte disturbances may occur resulting in lack of energy, and most seriously heart abnormalities, which may lead to death. Diabulemia, along with most eating disorders, requires a multidisciplinary team approach. It is a long process to recover from diabulemia. Please don't go there.


    Drugs? Please don't go there, either. (read more about the effects of drugs on your diabetes here)


    This topic is a very serious one: please take it to heart. If you have any of the feelings or conditions described above, please seek advice and support as soon as possible. You deserve it...


Published On: October 01, 2008