Diabetes Blogs

Family Conflict: Frustration or Blood Sugars

How does anyone understand the complexities of diabetes? Isn’t it as simple as following a routine? Unfortunately not! The emotional roller coaster that is diabetes abounds every which way you look. 

There are many reasons people with diabetes seem to have emotion problems. Some individuals have legitimate mental health issues, and if you are having chronic anxiety, depression or other issues, please see a mental health professional.

While, some come from frustration, other emotional issues can stem from low or high blood sugar problems.

Frustration (Other & Self)
It’s hard for family members or significant others to understand emotionality of individuals with diabetes. In some cases, the loved one may be contributing to the frustration that a person living with diabetes may go through. For example, asking the person living with diabetes if they checked their blood sugar consistently may not help them, while the person living with diabetes may find it annoying.

It is not deliberate, and it is usually out of care and concern but almost always comes off as nagging. Some individuals are trying to be supportive but fail, because they haven’t had a discussion with the person living with diabetes about how to support them.

For someone who is working on getting blood sugars under control, “Have you checked your blood sugar?” right before dinner may be helpful. If the person is aware that they have trouble remembering to check before meal times and they made a plan with the individual asking the question, then it is helpful.

It is best to manage diabetes with help from others. When, and only when, the person living with diabetes has instructed those around them as to what would be helpful. Then it becomes a team effort causing less confrontation, and it may reduce the feeling of isolation for people living with diabetes as well as some of the burden.

Without knowing how to best support a loved one living with diabetes and having conversations on what is supportive for them, the loved one may inadvertently be causing the emotional upheaval in the relationship.

One caveat to all of this is when a significant other makes the comment; the person living with diabetes may have already beaten himself or herself up for not being able to control their diabetes. Negative internal self-talk around not being able to control or over mistakes that any person could have made, will cause frustration. Emotional Heightened states stemming from frustration can cause arguments within a relationship, especially when the other person in the relationship is just trying to be supportive.

If this wasn’t enough diabetes itself, might trigger emotional states when one's blood sugar are high or too low.

The Blood Sugar Effect
As I mentioned in my previous blog, high blood sugar slows down the mind while causing the synapses to fire improperly. The higher one's blood sugar levels rise, the lower the ability to utilize defense mechanisms, causing a person who is living with diabetes, to become increasingly emotional.

The symptoms of high blood sugars are also similar to depression and causes disinterest of one's surroundings and their loved ones. This may leave your loved one feeling unwanted.

So make sure to explain to your loved ones at the beginning of a relationship what happens to you when your blood sugar levels are high. Then you need to be aware and check your blood sugar when feeling disinterested or depressed. Lastly, make sure to tell your loved one when your blood sugar is out of range so they can be of help. Maybe you will even avoid a few pointless arguments along the way.

Low blood sugars have a similar impact on emotions and one's ability to control their actions. In either state, it is difficult to impossible not over react to things that may not normally bother you.

Regardless of high or low blood sugar it is important to inform those you love when your blood sugars are out of range. If your blood sugar is out of range often then find a certified diabetes educator for management helps. No matter how long you have had diabetes or how much you know, sometimes a fresh pair of eyes helps.

If your blood sugar or frustration is negatively impacting your relationships, seek out a mental health profession. If you are struggling to understand what a family member with diabetes is going through, family therapy can help. Family counseling can help individuals open up lines of communication, while teaching stratagems to improve communication skills. Improved communication skills can build understanding of what everyone is going through, the feelings behind each person’s behavior and bring a family together.   


Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist, diabetes-coach, presenter, and writer. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.





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