Dealing with diabetes puts a lot of attention on blood glucose monitoring and insulin and medications—and those are important, of course. But there is an emotional side to diabetes and effects on your mental health that should be addressed, too.
Diabetes interrupts your workday when you have to check your blood glucose.
Diabetes means you can't just grab food whenever you want—you have to plan for it.
Diabetes prolongs getting ready in the morning as you wash and inspect your feet.
Diabetes spends your money.
Diabetes frustrates you when your taste buds cry out for a pastry instead of an apple.
Diabetes makes you worry about your future. All of the time, effort, money, and stress interrupts your emotional stability and introduces emotional complications—and it's okay to be frustrated or overwhelmed or scared.
Diabetes and "Being in Control"
Let's face it: most of us like being in control, and we don't like feeling that anything is out of our control. When it comes to diabetes, you can feel simultaneously in control and out of control.
Out of control: Because of how diabetes affects your body, it is possible to feel that nothing is in your control anymore. You can't eat what you want when you want. You have to take medications or give yourself injections. You can start, perhaps, to feel that your body isn't your own anymore.
How to counteract that "out of control" feeling: Taking a step back and an objective look at the situation may help. You can say to yourself, "Yes, diabetes makes me do these things, but diabetes does not run my life." A mantra along those lines—repeated at moments when you're feeling particularly out of control—can help.
Also, you can do a mental mind shift: all these steps you're taking to manage your diabetes are actually proactive, healthy steps. You are taking control of your condition and life as you learn how to thrive with diabetes.
In control: Well, one of the main things your doctor checks on when you have appointments is your blood glucose control—so yes, control is a big deal in diabetes. However, it's possible to become too focused on (and therefore stressed about) that level of control. You can start to feel if you don't do everything perfectly every day, then you will damage yourself.
How to counteract that "too much control" feeling: Just as with the out of control feeling, it's helpful to take a step back. Realize that you are doing the best you can in managing your diabetes. Release the expectation to do it "perfectly." If you are following your doctor's instructions, you are doing well and being healthy; remember that and remind yourself of it when you start to stress about "doing more."
Diabetes and Depression
Even with the knowledge that you have some control over diabetes, you will still be emotionally vulnerable to frustration, anger, and discouragement—and that's understandable. You may even become depressed or experience diabetes burnout.
If you think that you may be depressed, you need to confront it, because studies have shown that people who battle depression and diabetes together tend to suffer more from diabetic complications.1 Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about depression, as counseling and/or antidepressant medication may help. Common interventions for depression include cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people correct harmful thought patterns and behaviors which can increase depressive symptoms. You may also be able to incorporate lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly or making time for self-care as part of your treatment plan.
Fortunately, most people who experience depression succeed at overcoming it. Moreover, people living with type 2 diabetes actually improved their blood glucose control after battling depression by taking antidepressants. 2
Diabetes and Eating Disorders
A focus on food and numbers inevitably becomes a part of life when you have diabetes, but for some, this focus can become an obsession and lead to negative thought patterns. Diabulimia, or bulimia in people with diabetes, is a condition characterized by weight and body image concerns that lead to the mismanagement of diabetes. If you think you might be struggling with diabulima, we urge you to reach out to your doctor for medical advice and treatment.
Emotions Are a Normal Part of Diabetes
Really, emotions are a normal part of life—just as diabetes is now a part of your life. If you address the emotions swirling around diabetes as they come up, you will be taking a healthy step toward better managing your type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.