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Diabetes and mood swings: Effects on relationships
Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN
Diabetes is a condition that impacts the way a person’s body uses sugar for energy. However, diabetes affects much more than blood sugar. It can impact nearly every body system and have an effect on a person’s mood.
Stress associated with managing diabetes as well as concerns about potential side effects can all contribute to changes in mood. In addition, the actual highs and lows of blood sugar levels may also cause nervousness, anxiety, and confusion.
It is important for people to recognize their own individual symptoms of high or low blood sugar. They must also ensure they seek support for any concerning mental health symptoms they might experience.
Watching these mood swings can often be difficult for friends and family to understand. However, learning why a person may experience mood changes related to diabetes and being supportive can help to promote a stronger, healthier relationship.
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How do diabetes and mood swings go together?
Adjustments to their diet and constantly checking their blood sugar can also add to a person’s stress and enjoyment of life. As a result, they are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety and depression.
Blood sugar swings can cause rapid changes in a person’s mood, such as making them sad and irritable. This is especially true during hypoglycemic episodes, where blood sugar levels dip lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
When a person’s blood sugar returns to more normal ranges, these symptoms often go away. In fact, changes in mood and mental status can be one of the first signs that someone’s blood sugar levels are not where they should be.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the mental symptoms associated with low blood sugar levels may include:
- feeling confused
- feeling anxious
- having difficulty making decisions
Symptoms that indicate a person may have high blood sugar levels include:
- difficulty thinking clearly and quickly
- feeling nervous
- feeling tired or having low energy
Having diabetes can also cause a mental health condition called diabetes distress. This condition shares some elements of depression, anxiety, and stress.
While a person may not have symptoms severe enough for a doctor to diagnose them with a more severe mental illness, these symptoms can affect the quality of life for a person with diabetes.
An estimated 33 to 50 percent of people with diabetes experience diabetes distress at some point during the course of their disease. The sources of distress can include the responsibilities of managing the condition to worrying about potential complications.
Effect of diabetes on mental health
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for experiencing depression.
A diabetes diagnosis can also add to a person’s experience with depression. For example, a person who struggles with depression often lacks motivation and energy to engage in healthful behaviors. This could include healthful eating or exercising regularly.
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