Mental Health Risks Associated with Diabetes

mental-health-risk-diabetesHaving to check blood glucose levels, counting carbs, preparing healthy meals and taking medications for those with diabetes can cause someone to feel overwhelmed. Doctors are now just being to understand this burdening feeling and its link for some mental issues. Dubbed as “diabetes distress,” these negative emotions can lead to anxiety and depression.

According to researcher Stephanie Fonda at the Diabetes Institute of the Walter Reed National Military Center, the condition is characterized by “worry, frustration, concern and maybe a bit of burnout.” Although most depressive symptoms of those with diabetes don’t reach a major depressive disorder, these symptoms can have an adverse effect on overall health.

Mild to moderate feelings of anxiety and depression are not that rare for those with diabetes. Research reveals that in any 18-month period up to one half of those with diabetes experience some distress, anxiety and depression. A 2010 study in diabetic care indicated that those who are feeling more distressed are likely to develop high blood glucose levels and less likely to take their medications at the right times. Published data also reveals that depression is even higher for youth with type 1 diabetes.

Unfortunately, many doctors are not good at recognizing mental-health issues among diabetic patients. Spotting depression in those with diabetes is the first step. The second step is getting the right care. Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Loss of pleasure
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Feeling blue for a long period of time
  • Nervousness
  • Loss of energy
  • Trouble concentrating

The mental-health effects linked to diabetes aren’t just limited to depression and anxiety either. Posttraumatic stress disorder and panic disorder are also associated with diabetes, with or without comorbid depression.

Eating disorders have also been identified in diabetics. Studies reveal that those with type 1 diabetes have twice the risk of developing a full-blown eating disorder and sub-threshold eating disorder. Another study found that up to 40 percent of women with type 1 diabetes between the ages of 15 and 30 have purged and binged through insulin restriction. Like the other mental illnesses related to diabetes, eating disorders can cause more complications with diabetes. Combine women with type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder, and there are more incidences of neuropathy, hospitalization and even premature death.

To help address the psychological issues of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends that doctors routinely screen diabetic patients, so identification and treatment can take place.


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