How Diabetes is Affecting Your Mental Health—And Vice Versa

You can’t sleep—again. Despite daytime fatigue, every time you lie down for bed you’re suddenly restless.

At social gatherings, you feel like everyone around you is thinking about your new diagnosis. You’ve begun to avoid them.

With the added responsibility of checking your blood sugar, keeping your mental health under control has become more critical than ever.

Every day, millions of Americans suffer from psychiatric issues. For people with diabetes, these issues are more common, and get in the way of proper healthcare.

What puts people at risk for mental illness? For the general population, risk factors fall into three categories:
Inherited traits (like a family history of alcoholism)
Environmental exposures before birth (like virus or toxin exposure in the womb)
Environmental exposures after birth (like domestic violence, emotional, sexual or physical abuse during childhood)
For those of us living with diabetes, the disease itself is a fourth risk factor for mental illness.

Diabetes has both physiological and emotional links to your mental state. Children with Type 1 diabetes are prone to physical damage to various regions of the brain, impairing attention, processing, long-term memory, and executive skills. Individuals with Type 2 diabetes (generally adults with fully developed brains) are more prone to depression and anxiety brought on by out-of-control blood sugar levels and the trauma of diagnosis.

When it comes to addressing the dual challenge of diabetes and mental health problems, we’ve made strides. Researchers have a good sense of why psychiatric illnesses hit the diabetic population harder than the general one. In this eight-part blog series, I’ll examine some of the most common psychological disorders I’ve encountered with my patients—and discuss how they interact with diabetes, and what you can do to alleviate them.

Learning to identify and address your mental health issues is essential to managing your diabetes. Is your psychological disorder interfering with your diabetes care? Or have you and your health care providers developed a system that works? Share your experience with us in the comments section!

Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

For more information go to his website or Facebook Page or set up a free 30-minute phone consultation to see if talk therapy is right for you.

Medical Disclaimer:
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.

One thought on “How Diabetes is Affecting Your Mental Health—And Vice Versa

  1. I have been Type 1 since the age of 10. I am now 43. I have suffered from depression since my teens. My biggest issues with my diabetes are the mood swings with the depression and the constant emotional and physical exhaustion. In a society that pushes good health, fighting weight gain from the insulin and trying to lose weight as a type 1 is very difficult for me. This adds to my already damaged mental health.

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