Mental Health Awareness Month: Diabetes Distress and Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. May 2020 also means that we’ve officially been in a global pandemic for 3 months now due to COVID-19. During this time, maintaining a positive mental state can be difficult given the current state of the world, and the uncertainty that comes with it. Compounding that stress with diabetes can make things worse and increases stress. Having a positive mental state can help you be more successful at managing diabetes. Keep reading to learn about how diabetes can cause mood swings and find out some useful tips you can do at home to help manage your stress.

Mood Swings and Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body doesn’t process sugar properly. For those with diabetes, rapid changes in blood sugar can occur and these fluctuations can cause severe mood changes and physical effects. Some signs that a person with diabetes may have high blood sugar levels include feeling nervous, fatigue or low energy, difficulty thinking clearly, and even anxiety.

Conversely, a person experiencing low blood sugar levels may experience low mood, confusion, aggression and irritability, and even hunger. Oddly enough, some diabetics experience a slightly euphoric feeling similar to being mildly drunk. During this type of event, the body will often release adrenaline to try and convert any available glycogen in the liver back into glucose to boost sugar levels. When this happens, the fight-or-flight response lends itself to the feeling of irritability.

When it comes to the effects of blood sugar on mood, these feelings usually resolve themselves once blood sugar levels return to a normal range. However, diabetes can lead to a mental health condition that some doctors refer to as diabetes distress.

Diabetes Distress, Depression, and Anxiety

Individuals living with diabetes sometimes feel stressed or powerless about managing their diabetes. This can sometimes lead to diabetes distress. Diabetes distress is a poor mental health state commonly associated with feelings of guilt or fear, and the stigma associated with having diabetes. It’s not uncommon for those living with diabetes to become stressed with the burden of managing diabetes properly. Some patients even report developing stress from fear that they will be treated differently by their friends and family.

Diabetes distress shares similar characteristics of depression and anxiety, however, it is not considered a mental disorder.

Stress Management Tips

  • Pause and breathe. This may seem simple, but active deep breathing releases “feel good” neurotransmitters in your brain, elevating your mood. It also gives you a moment to collect your thoughts and think through what may be bothering you.
  • Take breaks from COVID-19 content and other content that may contribute to negative feelings. Keep in mind that your thoughts and feelings can be influenced by what you watch, read, and listen to. Removing stressful content may help to improve your mood.
  • Make time to sleep and exercise. Regular exercise and restful sleep are vital to general wellbeing.
  • Reach out and connect to family and friends, and we don’t mean on social media. During the stay-at-home order, it may be difficult to see your loved ones, and feelings of isolation may promote stress. Pick up the phone and call them or FaceTime with them. You may be amazed at the effect a good conversation can have on your mood.
  • Seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsafe. Talking to a professional that you don’t know on a personal level may make it easier and more comfortable for you to work through your feelings without fear of being judged.

The above tips are a good place to start from if you’re more stressed than normal. However, if you feel that what your feeling more serious, or your feelings have been persisting, please contact a professional. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

At Diabetes Center of Wellness, we specialize in helping our patient better understand their body and how it is affected by diabetes. We teach proper management and help you form the right habits to make diabetes just a detail of your life, and not the focal point. For information on becoming a patient, contact our office today.