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How Does Diabetes Affect Mental Health?

Diabetes Distress                               (Pexels / pixabay)

Receiving a type 1 diabetes diagnosis is a life-changing event. Not only does type 1 diabetes require adjustments in diet, medication, and medical appointments, but the stress involved in a new diagnosis can lead to changes in our mental health.

Just as it is essential to manage the physical aspects of diabetes by monitoring blood glucose, counting carbs, and administering insulin, it is equally important to manage our mental health. Maintaining a positive mood and attitude will make it easier to manage the day-to-day issues that come with a chronic medical condition like type 1 diabetes.

How does diabetes affect mental health?

For many people, diabetes can feel like a burden that looms over daily life. People with type 1 diabetes are twice as likely to develop depression throughout their life. Some aspects of life, like maintaining a healthy diet, are particularly important for people with diabetes.

People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop disordered eating, as fear of uncontrolled blood sugars can lead to binging or restricted eating. Additionally, increased levels of depression and anxiety can lead to avoidant behaviors, such as ignoring blood glucose levels, doctor’s appointments, and other aspects of medical care related to diabetes. The emotional problems stemming from a diabetes diagnosis are sometimes called Diabetes Distress.

Diabetes Distress

Due to the daily attention that managing diabetes requires, it is not uncommon for people with diabetes to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or burnt out. Some may feel like their condition controls them or is an insurmountable challenge. These feelings can demotivate people and make them less likely to manage their diabetes effectively. They may stop checking their blood sugar, going to doctor’s appointments, or otherwise ignore their self-care. It’s estimated that up to half of the people with diabetes experience diabetes distress in any 18-month period.

While diabetes distress is common, it is not something we want to experience. Although diabetes distress can look like normal depression and anxiety, it may not respond to medication. Because it is a diabetes-specific challenge, it requires specific care. A good first step is to talk to your endocrinologist for specific guidance on how to best address the emotional challenges related to diabetes. Meeting with diabetes educators, therapists who specialize in chronic health conditions, or a diabetes support group can be another way to connect with people who understand what you might be thinking and feeling.

How do I monitor my mental health?

If you are concerned about your mental health, the first step is to talk about your concerns with your healthcare provider or diabetes specialist. Screenings for diabetes distress, depression, or anxiety disorders can help determine if your concerns are diagnosable. Online screening tools can also be an inexpensive way to evaluate your mental and emotional health prior to a scheduled appointment. These tools are used to identify potential signs of mental health issues that may require treatment. If you are concerned about diabetes-related depression, you can try an online screening here.

What do I do if type 1 diabetes has affected my mental health?

Mental health conditions are treatable and manageable, just like type 1 diabetes. For medical assistance, ask your care provider to refer you to a mental health specialist to develop a treatment plan specific to you and your needs. Common treatments include therapy, encouraging lifestyle changes, and antidepressant medications.

Therapy can include talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or dialectical behavioral therapy. These treatments rely on meeting with a therapist to discuss your specific concerns and emotions, developing positive coping strategies, and working together with your therapist to alleviate symptoms of mental illness.

Medications can include a variety of antidepressants, depending on the specific needs of the patient. SSRIs and SNRIs are two of the most commonly prescribed types of antidepressants. These drugs, in combination with therapy and lifestyle adjustments, can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. While these medications are effective, they can take several weeks to take effect and may come with mild side effects. Doctors and patients work together to find the medication that works best to alleviate depression and anxiety.

Lifestyle changes for patients with depression and anxiety include managing or reducing stress, exercising, spending time outside, and developing healthy ways to relieve stress, such as journaling, enjoying hobbies, or discussing problems with friends and family. Developing coping skills will allow you to manage stress in all aspects of life, including diabetes management.

Skin Grip is dedicated to stress-free living.

One of the biggest sources of stress for people with type 1 diabetes is managing their blood glucose and all of the equipment that comes with it. Even with a CGM, which makes checking blood glucose simpler, there is the stress and hassle that comes with applying sensors, keeping them on, and fighting with insurance to get replacements when they fall off early.

Skin Grip’s overlay patches and tape are designed for keeping diabetic sensors safe throughout their recommended lifespan. A waterproof, hypoallergenic overpatch for your Dexcom, Freestyle Libre, or Medtronic Guardian sensor can eliminate the worry about keeping your sensor safe.

These patches are applied on top of your sensor and protect it from water, dirt, and accidental bumps. Skin Grip keeps your sensor on your skin, right where you need it, so you don’t have to worry about it. Having a secure sensor means you can bike, hike, swim, surf, dance, and hug without fear of losing your new sensor. One less thing to worry about means you can inhabit the Skin Grip motto, “Live Fearlessly.”