The Connection Between Diabetes and Mental Health Concerns
If type 2 diabetes has been a part of your life for a while, you know the routine. You know about the doctor appointments. You know about the needles and the tests. You know about the diet and exercise. You definitely know about stress.
As someone with type 2 diabetes, stress is a normal part of your life. Not only do you have to maintain all of the facets of your everyday life, but you have to do it while managing your diabetes.
Going to work, paying bills and shuttling the kids to activities is challenging enough for anyone. When you pair these tasks with diabetes, the level of difficulty increases exponentially.
During periods of stress, people use their coping skills to reduce or eliminate the amount of stress they experience. If you have a healthy supply of coping skills, you can handle most stressful situations. When the stress ends, your coping skills recharge.
The problem with type-2 diabetes is that the stress does not end. Since it is a chronic medical condition, its repercussions usually last forever. Chronic stress leads to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Depression and Diabetes
One of the most common mental health issues for people with type 2 diabetes is depression. Gaining awareness into the symptoms of depression gives you the ability to look in on yourself to track the changes. Oftentimes, it is helpful to ask others in your life if they have noticed changes in you. Symptoms of depression include:
- Increased feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness with poor self-esteem.
- Less interest in doing things and having less energy to do things you would like to.
- Changes in weight; significant weight gain or loss.
- Changes in sleep, including sleeping too much or too little.
- Increased difficulty focusing, concentrating and maintain attention.
- Thoughts of suicide or thinking the world would be better off without you.
Depression begins to creep into the life of a person with diabetes slowly and typically begins with grief and mourning. The majority of people experience a loss when they receive a chronic medical diagnosis. This is logical and expected because your former way of life is changed and gone forever.
The grief process triggers feelings of sadness, confusion, hopelessness, guilt and shame. If left unresolved, these feelings grow and change into full depression. The above process mostly happens unconsciously without your awareness. Without awareness, it is difficult to change.
Some things that you can change, though, are your thoughts and self-talk. Your self-talk is the internal dialogue that you have with yourself throughout the day. Everyone has a steady stream of communication in their minds and what you say to yourself can trigger depression.
If you say to yourself that diabetes is the worst thing that could ever happen to you, you will never be able to deal with it, your life is going to be terrible now, and other similarly negative things, depression builds. Negative self-talk over an extended period of time will create depression where none existed before.
Anxiety and Diabetes
Some people with diabetes are likely to experience increased depression. Others are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety.
As with depression, knowing the symptoms of anxiety gives you the ability to recognize these issues in yourself before they grow out of control. Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Increased worry about aspects of your life. The worry might be related to a specific activity, item or situation or it could be widespread to all aspects of your life.
- Problems paying attention and concentrating. Feeling that your mind is blank.
- Feeling tense and restless.
- Feeling more irritable and having a shorter temper.
- Being fatigued with less energy.
- Problems falling asleep or staying asleep.
Like with depression, what you say to yourself can highly influence what you feel. People that lean towards depression are more likely to think negative and pessimistic notions while people that are anxious will be overly fearful of real or imagined stressors.
Anxious self-talk is problematic because it is faster and more repetitive than depressed self-talk.
A cornerstone of anxious self-talk is the question “What if..?” When anxiety begins, you make ask yourself “What if my diabetes gets worse?” or “What if I misjudged what I ate and how much insulin I need?”
These questions are natural but anxiety begins to speed them up and repeat them endlessly. Then, the questions mutate to become less rational and more fear-based. Your body becomes tense, and you become more irritable.