How Does Diabetes Affect Mental Health?

Published on 
January 25, 2024
June 7, 2023
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

And what is the link between type 2 diabetes, depression, and anxiety?

Reviewed by Virta Medical Affairs

When Virta member Cheryl experienced business and financial issues, she stopped managing her diabetes in her subsequent bout with depression. “I went off the deep end,” says Cheryl. “I knew that if I didn’t take care of myself, diabetes would kill me. And I was letting it…”

If you have diabetes and you’ve experienced depression and anxiety, you’re not alone: There’s a strong link between diabetes and mental health and stress and diabetes. Poor mental health can make diabetes symptoms worse, while anxiety or depression can make it harder to manage type 2 diabetes. Here’s what you need to know. 

What is the link between diabetes and depression?

There’s a strong link between diabetes and depression. People with diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience depression than those who don’t have diabetes. The burden of constantly managing your blood sugar, diet and medications can leave you feeling worried, exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed, which could possibly lead to depression symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes can cause depressive symptoms like: feeling sad or empty, a loss of interest in hobbies or relationships, sleeping too much or too little, or thoughts of suicide or death. Depression can also cause behavioral changes like a change in appetite, digestive issues, and pains like cramps and headaches.

If you are feeling depressed and experiencing these symptoms, consult a professional. 

What is the link between anxiety and diabetes?

Having a chronic illness like type 2 diabetes can be a major source of anxiety for many people. As with depression, the stress of managing a chronic illness can deepen existing symptoms of anxiety, like irritability, a persistent feeling of worry and trouble sleeping. 

Complicating matters for people with diabetes, anxiety and low blood sugar share many symptoms, including agitation, trouble concentrating, tremor, heart palpitations, and sweating.. 

If you feel anxious, first check your blood sugar and address it if it’s low. If your blood sugar is normal, try one of these coping techniques to help manage your anxiety. 

·        Take time for activities you enjoy, like reading, spending time with friends, planning a trip, walking outside or gardening.

·        Try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises.

·        Get regular physical activity. Find something you enjoy and look forward to, such as walking outside, weightlifting, dancing, swimming, hiking or cycling.  

·        Check in with a supportive family member or friend who’s a good listener.

·        Limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can trigger anxiety.

·        Connect with a mental health professional, like a counselor, who can help you develop personalized coping strategies for managing stress and diabetes.

The Takeaway

If you have symptoms of depression or anxiety, talk to your healthcare provider right away. They can help you develop coping techniques and get the right care to address your mental health while also helping manage your diabetes.

At Virta Health, we know living with a chronic health condition like diabetes isn’t easy. If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and want to live a healthier lifestyle, Virta Health may be able to help. By making healthy lifestyle changes in a medical setting with supportive resources like 1:1 virtual coaching, you can regain control of your health and feel like yourself again. See if you’re eligible for Virta Health here.

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