Healthy Living

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Diabetes

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Diabetes

Anxiety, anger, disbelief, and fear are just a few of the emotions that can quickly run through someone’s mind after being diagnosed with diabetes. Often, this is just the beginning of the ride, and anyone getting on this emotional rollercoaster will need to be ready for many ups and downs.

Everyone handles a diagnosis of diabetes differently. Some may confront the disease head-on, jumping into research and treatment options, and others will choose to ignore the new reality by pretending it just doesn’t exist. More often than not, everyone will have at least one moment of an intense emotional reaction to having the disease. Some may be in denial because they can no longer eat all of their favorite foods, while others deal with the fear of facing a lifetime of finger pricks, constant monitoring, and injecting insulin, and even others fall into deep depression, taking it to their beds and refusing to face anything or anyone.

All those negative emotions are part of diabetes distress. Yes, this is a real thing, and as many as 40% of people with the disease suffer from some kind of distress.  Diabetes distress is defined as having emotional issues that are related to having diabetes and they come from three specific sources: 

  • Being diagnosed with diabetes
  • Everything that is involved with managing diabetes and the stress that it can cause
  • Spikes in stress levels or distress that are typically caused by things, such as starting a new medication, fluctuating glucose levels and complications from the disease.

Whatever those emotions are and however they manifest themselves, what’s important is that they get treated. In fact, studies have shown that treating the emotional health and the negative emotions, or rather the diabetes distress, that sometimes comes with the disorder is as important as treating the physical side of things. Recognizing emotional stressors and dealing with them will help patients keep their disease under control and will greatly reduce the chances of complications.

How diabetes affects emotions

In the US, people with diabetes have a 45 percent chance of becoming depressed or anxious. It’s actually quite easy to see why this happens. Dealing with a disorder like diabetes is stressful and can take an emotional toll on individuals and their families. Stress is controlled by a hormone known as cortisol that fluctuates in the system based on stress levels.  The higher the stress, the higher the cortisol levels, which can have a direct effect on how the body regulates its blood glucose levels. 

Some people deal with stress by eating. Who hasn’t tried to make themselves feel a bit better about a bad situation by diving deep into a decadent tub of ice-cream? Too much emotional eating, however, will lead to weight gain, which can significantly increase the risk for developing diabetes. For anyone who is already battling blood sugar, overeating can makes it much more difficult to manage. This, in turn, can lead to depression, and quite honestly other negative emotions.