Self-Care & Motivation

Impact of Glucose Levels on Mental Health and Mood

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Fluctuating blood sugar conditions have been observed to cause anxiety and depression and mood swings. Controlling these emotions are key to normalizing health, and the first step to do that would be by monitoring blood glucose levels. A reliable way to get biofeedback and derive insights how the two are related is through Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM).

How Does Diabetes Affect Mental Health?

Diabetes is said to occur when the body does not respond like it is supposed to for maintaining blood glucose levels. There are mainly 2 types of diabetes – Type and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is caused due to an autoimmune reaction by the body which inhibits the production of insulin. The main cause of type 2 diabetes is the body’s resistance to insulin or its inability to produce enough insulin. It requires a strict diet, timely medications, a number of tests, and exercise to keep the body healthy. The consequences of lower or higher blood glucose levels can be sinister and controlling the diet is a necessity. 

Managing all of these factors can be exhausting and can affect one’s mental health adversely. Most people do not realize that diabetes and mental health are intertwined as hypo or hyperglycemic issues can make a difference in a person’s mood or way of thinking. 

Link between Blood Sugar, Mental Health & Mood

The connection between inadequate glucose control and increased incidence of mood problems has been established. But do you know that individuals with T2DM have a 20% more chance of experiencing anxiety disorders, and are twice as likely to have depression. 90% of people with prediabetes blood glucose levels are unaware of their problem, hence by the time it is diagnosed, insulin resistance has already set in. Insulin resistance occurs on prolonged or excessive exposure to high levels of blood glucose making the individual vulnerable to mood disorders as well.

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Why do Abnormal Blood Sugars increase the Risk of Mood & Mental health Conditions?

Has the diabetes diagnosis traumatized them or is it their bad lifestyle behavior that's causing anxiety, depression, and decreased wellness? Or is there a strong biological connection between Glucose Dysregulation, Insulin Resistance and our state of mind?

Research seems to indicate that it could be a combination of all these three factors. Whatever the reason, it is clear that there is a definite link between insulin resistance, blood sugar fluctuations, and the onset of abnormal moody behavior. So the best way to get ahead of it is by observing your blood glucose levels more closely so that you can be better prepared to handle mood issues and stay mentally healthy.

Diabetes Distress

Many times, people are so focused on the physiological effects of diabetes that they do not account for the psychological effects of diabetes. The stress that comes with diabetes is referred to as diabetes distress. Micromanaging your meals to maintain a healthy body can be stressful and burdening. There are a few symptoms to watch out for to assist with better care of the person going through diabetes distress. The symptoms and their causes are:

  1. A person may feel like it is too much to handle when it comes to managing the blood sugar levels which causes anger and frustration. The person may be more irritable than normal and snap often. 
  2. Constantly counting calories gives birth to worry about one’s ability to manage it. This causes a negative impact on the mind. 
  3. A feeling of helplessness may arise as there is no real medication available to reverse diabetes. This can lead to low motivation levels to make an effort. 
  4. A person can feel like skipping appointments or not checking their blood sugar levels. Procrastinating on either of these is also a sign. 
  5. Deliberately and knowingly making unhealthy choices is another sign of diabetes distress. 
  6. A person may feel like no one gets their situation and hence end up feeling isolated. 
  7. More serious psychological effects of diabetes 2 and 1 are anxiety and depression. 

Some people may also experience a mental condition “diabetes burnout”, which may lead to 

  1. Unregulated diet
  2. Distancing from self-care
  3. Looking for risks and taking unnecessary risks
  4. Skipping appointments

There may be some overlap between diabetes mental health issues and other underlying issues. It is highly recommended to use an expert to gain insight into the problem and work towards a solution. It is clear how diabetes affects mental health and if there are signs, then therapy can help. 

Depression & Anxiety

Studies across a cross-section of about 70,000 adults established that diets with added sugars and a high glycemic index increase the chances of depression and rated high depressive mood scores. Here are a few reasons that link Blood Glucose and Depression/Anxiety.

  1. Resistance to Insulin in the Brain : The brain's centers that regulate emotions have insulin receptors all through. These allow the cells to absorb and use sugar for energy. Studies say that since the resistant receptors make them anxious and depressed and prone to mood swings.
  2. Decreased Brain Cell Growth due to High Blood Sugar : The process that creates new brain cells, Neurogenesis, seems to be affected in diabetics. This could be because of the improper functioning of the mitochondria. These are the parts of the cell that produce energy from sugar after the onset of insulin resistance. In experiments on mice, it has been observed that when insulin sensitivity is increased through therapies, they result in the generation of mitochondria, reduced depressive symptoms, and increased brain cell formation.
  3. Impaired 'Wiring' of Brain Cells in insulin-Resistant States : Resistance to insulin in the brain disrupts the signaling pathways that make for ideal 'wiring' of the brain cells that are connected to reward and learning behaviors. This is linked to depression and impaired adaptation to stress.
  4. Chronic Stress Hormone Levels : Insulin has been seen to boost various stress response hormones. But resistance to insulin in the brain can disturb the negative feedback on the brain’s stress hormone routes. The result is a repetitive cycle between dysfunctional insulin and higher stress levels. All these findings suggest that insulin resistance may lead to depression by inducing stress responses that are abnormal in the brain.
  5. Increased Inflammation : Impacts the brain, reducing serotonin activity. TNF𝛂 is a pro-inflammatory chemical that is observed to be elevated in diabetic patients. Scientists think that this decreases the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in depression, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors that enhance serotonin levels in the brain are usually prescribed as antidepressants.
  6. High-Carb Diet : Research indicates that anxiety levels are seen to reduce when a heavy carbs diet is changed into a healthy diet of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, fiber. Since the glucose levels are no longer elevated with the new diet, they dont warrant an anxiety response.

Tips to Manage Mood Swings

Symptoms related to diabetes mental health issues can cause a person to disengage and not follow the required path to maintaining a well-functioning body. When you notice that someone around you with diabetes is exhibiting these signs, it is important to deal with it and help them. Here are some ways you can make a difference.

  1. Be attentive to the differences – Be attentive to the feelings of people with diabetes and notice if their frustration levels are increasing. Excessive irritability may be due to stress and the person may need more assistance with managing diabetes. 
  2. Seek support from friends and family – A person doesn’t need to be stressed out all the time. Their families and friends can accompany them while doing physical activities and they can ensure they accompany them to tests, and doctors’ appointments, and remind them to take medications. Small gestures like carrying some food to keep up their blood sugar levels can make a lot of difference and they can feel supported. 
  3. Expressing feelings – Expressing true feelings can make one feel lighter. Try to get them to express their concerns, no matter how insignificant you think they are. Once they start doing that, the healthcare team can suggest better ways to deal with them. 
  4. Pursue a hobby – Try to get them to take up a hobby so that they feel like their whole day doesn’t revolve around managing their blood sugar levels. 
  5. Focusing on one thing at a time – When you know you have to achieve a lot of tasks in a single day, it can be overwhelming. However, if you break your goals into smaller goals, it is easier to deal with each task and every completed goal can be a small victory. 

Bottom Line

Continuous Glucose Monitoring is a potentially effective biofeedback tool . Using it to minimize lifestyle-driven glucose dysregulation patterns has been seen to successfully decrease the consequent rates of depression and anxiety.

FAQs

Can high glucose cause psychosis?

High and low glucose can cause psychosis.

Can diabetes lead to bipolar disorder?

Type 2 diabetes rates are higher in people with bipolar disorder. Diabetes can act as a catalyst and speed up the nature of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder find it harder to manage their lifestyle, and that is why diabetes is a leading cause of death in bipolar patients. Hence, diabetes can be considered a contributing factor.

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