Diabetes, Mental Health Challenges, and Promoting Mental Wellness

There are seemingly innumerable responsibilities and tasks to keep in mind when managing diabetes. Because of this, maintaining mental health is often the first thing to fall off the to-do list.

Caring for yourself mentally and physically (even though it may feel like an extra thing to remember) is essential to effectively managing the day-to-day challenges of living with diabetes. Diabetes and mental health influence each other and, as such, when one gets worse, the other often also follows suit. That being said, the opposite can also be true: when your mental health increases, your diabetes management is likely to become easier. This is referred to as a “bidirectional association.”

Mental Health Challenges

There are multiple mental health conditions that commonly affect those living with diabetes, including:

  1. Depression: Those living with diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience depression, often characterized by irritability, hopelessness, disturbed sleep/fatigue, a loss of interest, and a wide variety of other symptoms. To learn more about depression, check out this article from Kids Help Phone.
  2. Stress and Anxiety: Managing diabetes is bound to come with some amount of stress and anxiety and, when not dealt with, it can further interfere with your daily life. Stress and anxiety can be caused by a wide variety of factors, both large and small. Additionally, anxiety is regularly experienced by those living with diabetes, with one study suggesting that 40% of diabetic individuals experience anxiety at some point.
  3. Diabetes Distress: Diabetes distress refers to the emotional state wherein individuals experience frustration, defeat, or being overwhelmed by their diabetes. These sentiments may fluctuate over time and aren’t necessarily indicative of one’s feelings towards other aspects of life. However, if these feelings persist without abating, diabetes distress could potentially evolve into depression.

All of these concerns can lead to you not taking effective care of yourself mentally, physically, and regarding diabetes management. This can lead to an increased significance of these challenges, or even lead to other health problems. So, how can we address mental health concerns and promote mental wellness?

Promoting Mental Wellness

There are many ways to effectively respond to mental health challenges as they occur. Being proactive in working towards some of these things, such as developing health habits centered around caring for yourself, can pay off, even when there are no immediate challenges present.

Here are five steps you can take to promote mental well-being:
1. Build Healthy Habits: Building health habits, such as incorporating a healthy diet,

movement and exercise, and adequate amounts of sleep into your daily life can have massive positive effects for diabetes management and mental health.

  1. Consult Medical Professionals: Discussing diabetes management with a medical professional who has had experience dealing with diabetes (such as an endocrinologist) can help you come up with management strategies that are effective for you.
  2. Seek Peer and Other Support: Having support systems around you, be it your peers, family, or other individuals or groups, is beneficial to everyone, and can both benefit mental health and make diabetes management feel like much less of a challenge.
  3. Learn More: Learning more about diabetes management, discussing with others who deal with diabetes, and learning about your own diabetes gives you tools to work with that help you figure out what works for you, especially if diabetes management is new to you.
  4. Contact a Mental Health Professional: Meeting with a counselor or other mental health professional, especially those who specialize in chronic health conditions such as diabetes, can help you take care of your mental wellness.

Other Resources

“Mental Health” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“How diabetes can affect your mental health” from Diabetes Canada