Diabetes and Mental Health

Looking at the relationship between Diabetes and a person's mental health as well as ways to support mental wellness.

Table of Contents

Diabetes afflicts millions of Americans and kills thousands every year. Over 83,000 death certificates stated diabetes was the contributing cause of death in the USA in 2017. Many people suffering from diabetes suffer from a massive amount of health issues on a daily basis. But, for the millions suffering from the disease, there are many psychological factors to consider as well. 

Diabetics have a higher risk of experiencing debilitating negative thought patterns. These thoughts are commonly connected with the physical struggles associated with their illness. Diabetes and mental health connect in many ways, but this does not mean there is no help available! Keep reading to learn more about how the right therapy can help you in this battle. 

The Relationship Between Diabetes & Mental Health

Diabetes currently afflicts 422 million and kills 1.5 million people every year around the world. It is one of the most financially stratified diseases. This means people living in poverty and third-world countries are more likely to die from this disease. 

For many living with the disease, it impacts every aspect of their life. This is not an exaggeration to say, either. 

Diabetes impacts everything from a person’s sex drive to their ability to qualify for life insurance. Understanding this aspect is vital. It can help comprehend the connection between depressive thoughts and diabetes. 

Many people suffering from the disease feel they are misunderstood. There is a great deal of social stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the causes and side effects of the illness. 

There is also a surprising lack of distinction provided between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Last, this disease impacts men and women very differently. All of these nuances are essential for comprehending why mental health is important when battling this disease. 

More Information About Diabetes

Diabetes is a diverse disease with many names throughout history. In the past, it was commonly called “wasting disease” because of the way people seemed to wither away. 

The term diabetes comes from the Greek and Latin words “Diabetes Mellitus” meaning “sweet urine.” The Greeks were the first to make the connection between the sweet taste of the afflicted’s urine and their wasting away.

Diabetes causes these side effects because of the effects this disease has on the pancreas. The pancreas is a vital organ, even though it is one of the smallest. It is a hormonal regulator that keeps the body’s blood sugar at healthy levels. 

People suffering from diabetes have damaged or dead pancreases. This means they do not have an operating pancreas that regulates their sugar levels automatically. 

There are two general types of diabetes in the world today known commonly as type 1 and type 2. Despite their similar names, the two have some major distinctions which need clarification.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is caused by an underperforming pancreas or insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the blood’s sugar levels. 

For people suffering from type 2 diabetes, their blood sugar levels can be erratic. This is usually caused by either the fact that their body no longer produces enough insulin or has become resistant to it. 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Currently, of the 34 million suffering from the disease in the USA, more than 90% are type 2. 

The underlying causes of type 2 diabetes are health conditions such as obesity and insulin resistance. The pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin to compensate for the body’s sugar levels. 

This imbalance can lead to many other physical issues including kidney failure and heart issues.

Type 1 Diabetes

An important distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that for type 2, the pancreas does not perform up to par. For those suffering from type 1 diabetes, the pancreas essentially ceases to function. 

Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called juvenile diabetes because it usually afflicts people under 18. This is unlike type 2 which usually develops in people over 50 and is a sign of physical decline. 

Type 1 diabetes destroys the pancreas. People who go undiagnosed with type one diabetes are very likely to suffer very severe kidney failure from ketones. This means they could die within a couple of months of getting the disease due to complications. 

The major distinction is whether the pancreas is dead or underperforming. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. This means your body attacks your pancreas believing it is a foreign object posing a threat to your body. 

In response, your body’s immune system attacks it and kills or damages it. In comparison, type 2 diabetes does not kill the pancreas. 

Treatment For Type 1 & 2 Diabetes

The major difference in treatment is the severity of the diseases. This is not to say type 2 is not severe, but the treatments can be more moderate. This depends if you have acute type 2 diabetes or moderate. 

Acute type 2 diabetes requires sufferers to take several doses of insulin (usually on a daily basis) and some other medications. This is because their body has developed insulin resistance. 

However, some type two diabetes is moderate. This means there is a way to reverse the symptoms and side effects. This can be accomplished by following a strict diet and exercise regimen while taking any medications prescribed by a doctor. 

Type 1 diabetes can really only be treated through medication such as insulin. Since type 1 diabetics can not produce insulin, they must take several doses of insulin every day. These are taken before eating and occasionally throughout the day if their blood sugar levels reach a very high level. 

Of course, diet and exercise are excellent ideas for anyone seeking to manage their blood sugar levels. But, for type 1 diabetics you will still be required to take your medication every day. This is because no matter how fit and healthy you are, the pancreas is still dead, unfortunately. 

But, for both forms of diabetes, healthy lifestyles will promote longevity and prevent severe side effects. 

Diabetes & Mental Health

We have established that those who suffer from either form of this disease are dealing with a life-altering condition. It is extremely difficult to manage and can be hard to cope with when faced with the reality of the work that goes into the management. 

Before diving into the specifics of the causes for mental struggles among diabetics, these are some facts. Diabetics are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from depression because of their disease. 

Most diabetics suffering from depression never get the help they need to address their struggles. Untreated depression can heighten the symptoms of diabetes because it can lead to poor management and health choices. 

Additionally, people suffering from depression have difficulties holding jobs and social well-being. This can compound the diabetic because many of them afford their insulin through health care provided by employers. 

Last, diabetics feel misunderstood. This can be with family, friends, or anyone they happen to encounter. This can result in social anxiety and feeling socially outcast. This exacerbates the issues many diabetics and depression victims already face.

Perspective on the Future

Diabetics sometimes characterize their depression as an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. The hopelessness is directly correlated to their diabetes due to the fact they feel it sets them back in life. 

This results in many feeling they may never be able to catch up with others. Or, that they need to compete harder in order to have those things others take for granted. 

This hopelessness inhibits many of them from feeling they should plan for the future in any way. Diabetics say they face self-defeating thoughts as the result of their disease. They think that their health is already harmed and they may never be able to have a stable relationship because of their finances. 

Future perspectives will be examined briefly.

Diabetes & Finances

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics struggle to pay for their life-saving prescriptions each month.  Insulin remains one of the most expensive medications available today, even with insurance. 

Diabetics face a looming increase in expenses every year. The total costs of diabetes increased between 2012 and 2017 by over $100 billion in the U.S.

On average, diabetics pay close to $10,000 every year just for their medications. In total, they spend close to $16,000 every year on expenses including the medication and other treatments they may require. 

Because of this, many diabetics feel they are way behind the average American when it comes to getting established in life. 

Diabetes & Financial Investments

This is an extension of the previous point. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics struggle to plan and save for the future in ways average people do not. Due to their medical condition, they are usually not eligible for things like life insurance. 

They lack many of the financial flexibilities of their peers. This means they may not have “extra money” they can invest in stocks or IRAs. In some cases, they are excluded directly, or they simply do not have the resources to do so.

Additionally, they are less likely to invest in college if they already have over $10,000 in potential medical bills every year. This is not to say diabetics do not find ways to invest and pay for college. But, they usually feel it is an unfair burden. 

Perspectives On Relationships

Diabetes has a crucial influence on the sufferers’ perception of love and romance. Diabetes has a heavy impact on people’s overall health, which can affect sexual performance as well. 

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics may feel they will not perform well for their partners. Diabetes impacts a person’s emotional balance as well as physical capacities. If a person’s blood sugars drop while engaged, they may not be capable of completion.

This is an incredibly humiliating and frightening experience. Additionally, blood sugar levels can result in changes in emotional states as well. This could damage the experience for all parties engaged. 

However, diabetes can impact areas other than sex in a relationship. Diabetics also feel undesirable due to their financial struggles and health struggles. They fear if they have children they will pass along their illness. 

Because of these personal struggles, many with diabetes feel they are not eligible for the comforts of a relationship. 

Social Stigma & Misunderstanding

Both types of diabetics feel the mainstream populace does not understand their disease. There are so many misunderstandings circulated and perpetuated. Some pass these ideas around for either benevolent or malevolent reasons. 

Either way, they are damaging to people who suffer from the disease.

Some people think diabetes is caused by being fat and unhealthy. Although unhealthy lifestyles are contributing factors, they are not the cause. Additionally, in some instances, diabetes is an autoimmune disease and cannot be prevented. 

Both types of diabetics feel unfairly relegated as unhealthy people who got what they deserved. This is simply untrue and judgmental. The fact is, anyone can get diabetes and suffer from it. 

Another common misunderstanding is that you can catch diabetes. Some believe it is some sort of sexually transmitted disease or infection. This makes diabetics feel “dirty” and undesirable. It could also cause people to be hesitant to be around them and engage with them for fear of getting sick. 

This is not true at all. Diabetes cannot be transmitted. It is a genetic disorder that is caused by the parent’s genes. This is why some diabetics worry about having children.

They know they are genetically predisposed to having kids with diabetes. This causes a lot of guilt and anxiety around the idea.

Coping With Diabetes

As stated in the opening of this article, things are not hopeless. There are many methods available to help diabetics overcome their difficulties. The best way to begin is to acknowledge your depression and resolve to get the help you need. 

Reach out to those around you who are willing to help you. This can be friends or family members. If unfortunately, you do not have this support, there are professionals available to help

Here are some useful methods of self-love and development to help combat these negative thoughts and lies. 

Find A Peaceful Place For Introspection

When life is very stressful, it is easy to become overwhelmed with anxiety and self-defeat. Diabetics have an overwhelming burden in life that adds to this stress. 

When faced with such overwhelming burdens, the best thing to do is find a place where you feel safe. This can be a park or maybe a lake, just someplace you feel safe, and spend time focusing your mind. 

This is a very potent act that helps many suffering from anxiety. Sometimes the stress can seem overwhelming, but if you have some time to focus, you may be able to uncover some solution. 

Join A Diabetic Support Group

Spending time alone to analyze your mental state is a great idea, but finding a support group is a great idea, too. One helpful aspect of a support group is it helps diabetics recognize that they are not alone. 

There are local support groups that meet to help each other stay on track with their diabetes management. Or, you can also find helpful virtual meetup groups.

Some popular groups are on Reddit and Facebook and offer advice or provide emotional support. The best part is, they offer other diabetics the support of knowing they are not alone and others know how they feel. 

Be Sure To Take Your Medications

Taking care of your diabetes is the best way to prevent spiraling into depression. Self-love and self-care are vital to maintaining your overall well-being. 

It is not uncommon for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics to get depressed and stop taking their insulin. This is extremely dangerous and can result in death or severe medical issues. 

But, not taking your medications can really damage your well-being and health. This can result in more depression and more mental health struggles. As hard as this is, if you are able to, please continue taking your insulin.

If you struggle to maintain your blood glucose levels, there are medications available to help. Sometimes it is upsetting if you strive so hard to keep your numbers regulated and still can’t get the results you want. 

If you struggle to manage your numbers, speak with your doctor about getting some help. 

Eat Healthy & Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol is extremely dangerous for diabetics. The best way to maintain a healthy blood glucose level is to avoid alcohol and junk food.

This probably sounds obvious to many people who are familiar with health and well-being. But, for diabetics, this is especially true. Alcohol can cause a diabetic to go onto what is known as diabetic shock. 

This can result in their blood sugar plummeting or skyrocketing to very dangerous levels. There is a lot of peer pressure to drink alcohol, however.

For diabetics, it is hard to say no to something everyone else takes for granted. One solution is to surround yourself with friends who respect your situation. Or, to find places people gather socially without drinking alcohol. 

This is true for eating healthy as well. A healthy diet does more than maintain your physical health. It is important for your mental health as well. 

Ensuring you eat adequate calories with sufficient nutrients helps to keep your body functioning well. It also makes sure your brain and organs receive the right amounts of nourishment. For diabetics, insufficient nutrition can negatively affect their mental health. 

This can leave them feeling distraught due in part to unhealthy glucose levels. Try to find a circle of friends who understand what is best for you and respect you for this.

Exercise For Physical & Mental Health

It is no secret that exercise is vital for managing healthy stress levels. It also helps burn fat and maintain heart health.

If you find yourself slipping into a depressive state of mind, a jog or a power walk can go a long way. This is not to say it is the cure for your struggle. But, it is powerful. 

This is because it increases the positive hormone production in your brain that makes you feel good about yourself. Finding ways to have small victories such as these will help people manage their depression and their overall health.

Therapy For Mental Healing

Last, therapy may be the most obvious solution to offer. But, you must get the help you need right away. Your emotional health is key to your physical health. 

Your diabetes can be overwhelming. Sometimes you need someone who understands the struggle professionally. A trained therapist can offer more than just understanding and empathy. 

Therapists know the early signs of depression. If you feel even just a little bit “off,” you should start sessions. The best way to deal with depression is to address it right away. Therapists can help guide you through your negative thoughts. 

Finding a way out of the depressive maze is more than half the battle. Diabetes is a tough battle, and therapy can help empower you. 

Diabetes makes many feel like their life has spiraled out of control. A good therapist can guide you back to dry land and find healing. 

Treatment For Mental Health Issues

If you are feeling overwhelmed, do not worry. The truth is you are not alone. Diabetes is a life-changing disease and is not commonly understood. 

But, finding a well-trained therapist can help you manage your diabetes and mental health. Don’t let your diabetes and depression get the better of you.