Dealing with diabetes is about more than counting carbs, checking blood sugar levels and taking diabetes medication. There is a huge emotional and psychological aspect, as well.
Most people think of diabetes as a physical condition and have never really thought about the mental aspects that come along with living with the condition. People often know that living with diabetes is hard for them; but, they are surprised to learn that their concerns and questions are actually (and sadly) quite common.
While some people with diabetes have a mental health condition (that may or may not be related to having diabetes), there are many others who struggle with issues that are very real, but which may not meet the (sometimes arbitrary) criteria for a mental health diagnosis.
Psychology studies how situations, emotions and relationships that exist in our lives can interact and impact our behavior.
Diabetes is a self-managed condition…in other words…it is the person with diabetes, not their doctor, who is responsible for taking care of him or herself on a daily basis. Diabetes involves making frequent, sometimes life or death decisions under sometimes stressful and physically uncomfortable circumstances.
In addition, diabetes management is a 24/7 thing and can be very overwhelming. If you or someone close to you has diabetes, take a minute and think about all of the steps you take in your diabetes management daily. What to eat, how much insulin to take as well as when or even if you need to take any, when (or whether) to exercise, how to interpret a blood sugar reading, how many carbs to take to treat a low reading…and, the list goes on. Decisions, and resulting behaviors (and their consequences) are critical aspects of diabetes management. However doing everything necessary to manage diabetes can become overwhelming – and feeling overwhelmed is usually no fun.
Many people with diabetes know that having diabetes can result in some unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions; and, sometimes a roller coaster of emotions. Being diagnosed and living with a chronic condition like diabetes can be difficult and stressful…really hard…managing the balancing of everything that’s necessary to live well with diabetes can be overwhelming. Even if you do everything that you are “supposed” to do, diabetes can be unpredictable and frustrating.
And if you aren’t able to do everything you are “supposed” to do, it can cause feelings of anxiety, guilt and even hopelessness. And we haven’t even talked about the emotional impact of not feeling well
Diabetes can have a big impact the way that people with diabetes live their daily lives and interact with the world, and this can be especially challenging when it comes to relationships with family and friends. Stress and other negative emotions can affect relationships and sometimes the ability to have relationships at all…and that is without even throwing diabetes in the mix…adding diabetes can cause a significant level of distress.
Everything mentioned to this point leads back to behavior. People often find themselves in need of mental health treatment because of how their situation, emotion or relationship is causing them to behave. Having diabetes and the stress it involves (the situation), the way it makes you feel (the emotions), and the impact it has on your relationship with others intersect can sometimes make life difficult.
Whether it’s adhering to a diabetes treatment plan to take care of yourself, feeling so depressed, anxious or helpless that you have trouble going to work or school or doing things you enjoy. Still for others diabetes causes strain or conflict in a relationship, making it hard to be a loving supportive friend or partner or son or daughter, etc. And for others, it is a combination of all of these issues and others.
Even though the intersection of diabetes and mental health is complex…there is hope. If you are struggling with diabetes-related stress issues, know that it can get better. But before we can solve a problem, it’s important to think critically and define it.
Aspire Hospital’s MPU (Medical-Psychiatric Unit)
Aspire Hospital is pleased to provide the community with specialized complex medical care for the treatment of certain comorbidities – our Medical-Psychiatric Unit (MPU). When a mental health patient has comorbidity, Aspire Hospital seeks to both rapidly stabilize the patient as well as provide the education, resources and tools necessary for long-term compliance and success.
Written by: David Luxner, Director of Behavioral Health Services and Quality Assurance