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Diabetes Week 2019: How can diabetes affect mental health?

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It can be easy to forget that diabetes isn’t just about eating the right things and managing blood sugars, it can also take an emotional toll and impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

In this blog for Diabetes Week, we’re raising awareness of some the mental health problems that someone with diabetes might experience and suggestions on how they can be managed.

Depression

We all feel up and down from time to time, but if you’re finding that you’re feeling low for long periods of time, you might be showing symptoms of depression.

Diabetes can sometimes be difficult and overwhelming to manage and it’s been shown that depression is more common in someone who’s been diagnosed. You might also feel more tired than usual, have a change in appetite or have less interest in activities you once enjoyed doing.

Depression can seem like a vicious cycle to break, but you’re not alone. You could consider joining a forum such as our own Diabetes.co.uk Forum to access support from thousands of people who have been through the same experience.

Talking to your diabetes team or GP can also be helpful as they will be able to suggest what treatment options are available.

Diabetes burnout

Like depression, the frustration and stress of managing diabetes can also lead to what is known as ‘diabetes burnout.’ This is what occurs when someone withdraws and neglects their diabetes. Signs to look out for include poor blood sugar monitoring, unhealthy eating habits and missing healthcare or GP appointments.

Diabetes burnout can be prevented by varying one’s diet such as trying out new recipes and making a note to be kinder to yourself. It’s perfectly normal to sometimes feel angry or upset and you should give yourself permission to feel this way. Seeking support from a friend or family member or sharing your concerns with the community on the Diabetes Forum can also make things a bit easier to manage.

Diabulimia

Though not yet recognised as a medical condition, diabulimia is a term used to refer to someone with type 1 diabetes who has an eating disorder. In this case, the person will reduce or stop taking their insulin in order to lose weight, increasing the risk of complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabulimia is most prevalent in young women aged 15 to 30 with 40% reporting they have missed injections to manage their weight. Diabulimia is thought to result from a combination of physical, social and mental problems such as managing frequent hypos or not having a good relationship with their diabetic team.

If you feel that you or someone you know is showing signs of diabulimia it’s important to seek help from a healthcare professional who will be able to offer psychological therapy. Some people may find it difficult asking for help and talking to someone you know, and trust can help to alleviate some of the worry. You could also consider asking if they can attend appointments with you for support.

Hypoglycemia anxiety

It can be normal to have some worry about managing diabetes, but if this worry becomes more intense and begins to interfere with daily life then it can result in anxiety.

Some people may have anxiety around their blood glucose levels falling too low, which is also known as hypoglycemia anxiety. This can result from having severe hypos in the past, which may have resulted in an hospital admission or some people may feel embarrassed if they start to show symptoms in public.

To tackle hypo anxiety, you might find it helpful to talk to a member of your diabetes team who might suggest if you would benefit from talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which can help you cope better with anxiety.

It can also be a good idea to learn more about hypos and why they occur. Join our free Hypo Program to gain a better understanding of what causes hypos.



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