Diabetes and Anxiety : Causes, Link & Treatment
Self-Care & Motivation

The Link Between Diabetes and Anxiety

Can Diabetes Cause Anxiety?

Diabetes and anxiety are both quite common yet concerning conditions, but is there any link between the two? Can stress and anxiety cause diabetes or vice versa? Several studies have established a connection between diabetes and anxiety. For example, people with diabetes are 20% more likely to suffer from anxiety than those without diabetes. Moreover, women are at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety after the initial diagnosis of the disease than men. On the other hand, the blood sugar levels may fluctuate due to anxiety and can develop diabetes.

Let us understand how diabetes can cause anxiety in people and how it can be managed.

Causes of Anxiety for People with Diabetes

Living with a chronic condition like diabetes can take a toll on a person's mental health. There are several reasons why people with diabetes can feel anxious. They are as follows:

  • They need to be mindful about what and how much they eat. Trying to understand how different types of food affect sugar levels and how to manage them can be overwhelming, especially if diagnosed recently.
  • They should be watchful about their weight and need to lose it if they are overweight.
  • They need to keep track of blood sugar levels by regular monitoring.
  • Remember to take anti-diabetic medicines on time.
  • The daily needle pricks for the administration of insulin can be traumatising.
  • Concern about developing low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), as it can be dangerous.
  • Worry about how the disease will progress, knowing that diabetes can cause serious complications such as kidney failure, nerve damage, retinopathy, and cardiovascular diseases.
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The Link Between Anxiety and Glucose Levels

Can anxiety cause diabetes? Well, the effect of anxiety on glucose levels varies from person to person. Stress increases blood glucose levels in some individuals, while it may decrease in others. Stress induces the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which also causes insulin resistance and depresses the formation of insulin by the pancreas. It results in rising blood sugar levels. Persistent stress and anxiety can cause persistent elevation of sugar levels, also called hyperglycemia, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. When you are anxious, you do not feel motivated enough to exercise. Many people indulge in binge eating when they are anxious. Thus, anxiety can cause you to make unhealthy lifestyle choices, which result in elevated glucose levels and ultimately diabetes.

Additionally, a study was done to ascertain the question: can low blood sugar cause anxiety? The results showed that recurrent hypoglycemia can adversely affect the part of the brain that processes anxiety. Hypoglycemia and anxiety share several common symptoms such as lightheadedness, irritability, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, confusion, palpitations, sweating, and tremors. If the symptoms are caused by hypoglycemia, they will resolve when blood sugar levels return to normal; but they will remain persistent if caused by the anxiety disorder.

Treatment For Anxiety with Diabetes

Anxiety and diabetes form a vicious cycle because an anxious and panicked individual is not capable of rationally analysing his blood sugar levels and managing them, resulting in uncontrolled diabetes, which in turn increases their anxiety.

Knowledge about complications of diabetes should be used to prevent these from occurring rather than becoming irrationally anxious thinking about it.

The primary step toward treatment for anxiety with diabetes is to make an individualised diabetes care plan with your treating physician. It will provide clarity on the measures required to maintain the sugar levels and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Including the following habits in your lifestyle can help with both diabetes and anxiety:

  • Exercise regularly and be physically active.
  • Practise mind-calming techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises.
  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Limit the consumption of caffeine.
  • Have a good laugh every day by watching funny TV shows, joining a laughter club, or spending some good time with friends and family.

If the anxiety is interfering with your daily life, it is strongly recommended to consult a mental healthcare professional to get therapy. Treating anxiety can be a crucial step towards taking better care of yourself, including your diabetes.

Bottomline

It is not uncommon for people with diabetes to experience anxiety due to the stress of managing the chronic disease as well as the fear of complications. For example, during the recent pandemic, a correlation between coronavirus and your emotional health was observed, especially in individuals with diabetes. They were seen to be at a greater risk of developing serious complications if infected with COVID-19. It caused a great deal of anxiety among diabetics. At the same time, anxiety can lead to abnormal sugar levels and increase the risk of developing diabetes. Be careful about your emotional health during the times of coronavirus. 

Additionally, low blood sugar levels can also cause anxiety-like symptoms. If you are experiencing anxiety and wondering if low blood sugar can cause anxiety, speak to your doctor or a mental health professional for further guidance. Several self-care strategies can help to manage anxiety, such as relaxation techniques, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices. Additionally, working with a therapist or counsellor who specialises in anxiety can be very helpful in managing both conditions.

FAQs

Does diabetes cause panic attacks?

Diabetes may cause anxiety in some people. Various complications of diabetes can occur when the blood sugar levels remain high for long periods. Hence, many patients worry too much and get anxious about the disease, which may lead to panic attacks.

Can diabetics take anxiety medications?

Most anxiety medications are compatible with diabetes medications, so can be taken safely. However, some medicines may raise or lower blood sugar levels. It is, thus, important to tell your physician about all the medications that you are taking. However, if diabetes is the main cause of your anxiety, medications alone would not help. You need to change your thinking and be more positive, informed, and confident about handling your diabetes.

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