Diabetes and Mental Health Issues: Why They Affect Each Other
It’s not often discussed as the topic is emotionally charged. Relationships become strained as couples adapt to health issues associated to living with diabetes. This additional stress needs to be addressed. I believe knowing health issues and emotions are connected may be a source of understanding and hope.
Two primary chronic forms of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.
Both types of diabetes affect mental health.
Mental health challenges like depression can impact diabetes.
Depression, for example, depletes people of energy and decreases motivation. This makes adherence to diabetes treatment plans difficult, potentially worsening diabetes.
Other effects of depression that affect diabetes include:
Likewise, diabetes can worsen depression and other mental health challenges for various reasons:
The mutual risk factor and the worsening of each other’s symptoms that arise from the connection between diabetes and mental health creates a vicious cycle. The stress of living with diabetes as well as its impact on the brain can cause mental health issues. These, in turn, make managing diabetes more difficult and can increase the severity of the disease or contribute to the development of the disease. This cycle can create additional problems (“Uncontrolled Diabetes and Mental Health Complications“).
There are various Problems Associated with the Diabetes and Mental Health Link
Living with diabetes and a mental health condition is challenging and has multiple consequences:
While extra problems and challenges can arise when someone has both diabetes and a mental health condition, the situation isn’t all bad. How does diabetes affect your mental health? It can be very positive. When you’re aware of the challenges, you can use your insight to develop and adhere to a treatment plan as well as seek support. Addressing diabetes and mental health together can enhance wellness.
Why many with diabetes develop depression and how to treat depression associated with diabetes.
“At some point, over 50% of people with diabetes will have clinical depression. Currently, one-third of my patients are on antidepressants.”
– Dr. Andrew Ahmann, Endocrinologist and Director of the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health and Science University
It’s well researched that those with diabetes are two times more likely to be depressed than the general population. It’s not completely clear why people with diabetes develop depression. It’s the common chicken and the egg situation that is often present when mental health is involved. This leads to the questions:
According to numerous studies, it’s both. A person with diabetes may be more physiologically susceptible to depression though the connection is not clear, but there is a definite connection for many people regarding what’s called reactive depression. In this case, depression is a reaction to the diabetes diagnosis.
I conclude by bringing the topic down to the personal journey each of us are travelling.
Many of us live with diabetes or have a partner who has diabetes. Like living with any disease numerous rational and irrational plus psychological aspects require adjustment. It is a journey taken by all affected.
Emotions can be anger (because the one suffering the illness may not appear to be adhering to medical advice – ie diet), fear (of what may be ahead in the future for them both), and also depression and anxiety.
Accepting these changes requires self examination of responses during untested situations, hopefully coming out with new attitudes and mind sets. This applies in all challenging situations throughout our lives, but can be an enormous hurdle as changing our life long beliefs is not easy.
The process reveals through our self talk complex revelations of who we are when under stress. We discover we are not empathetic , compassionate, or even patient. The very strengths we may have believed we had can crumble when faced with major life changing situations. And, we break apart, becoming in our mind, incapable to deal with the issues we know we must deal with. We are human, and even though we desire to act in love, for some this is the point when we don’t have even enough love for ourselves.
It requires us to be easy on ourselves, as we are products of our upbringing, culture and belief systems. The journey ahead is to learn to love ourselves as we want to love others. For the spiritual person, it is the journey of the soul. Of discovering the never ending, love of God.
It is the discovery that we are human beings, having numerous emotions, and most of all needing everlasting love despite our imperfections.
I challenge you to examine scriptures and discover what those who discover this love have based it upon. And then affirm the truth of God’s everlasting love. As what you tell yourself is how you will see yourself. Worthy or unworthy. Capable or incapable. Overcomer or not.
When we understand we are perfectly made because we were created this way by the God of unconditional love, then all self doubts, self judgement and self righteousness will melt away.
Therefore, “to travel down the road of suffering through serious illnesses or to be caring for our beloved partner, friend or family member, we know the strain upon the relationship on a day to day basis.”
It is important to adapt to the health issues associated to living with diabetes and other illnesses and “use the research studies which show the benefits of being a supportive friend to yourself, especially in times of need.
The seeds of self-compassion already lie within you – learn how you can uncover this inner resource and transform your life.” Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer
Dr. Andrew Ahmann, Endocrinologist and Director of the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health and Science University
Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
Author- Self Compassion, Fierce Self Compassion
4. Kristin Neff, PhD. And Christopher Germer, PhD
Authors – The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook