Sugar diabetes and mental health


 By Elizabeth Sitotombe

‘MAKE Mental Health and Well-Being for All a Global Priority’ is this year’s theme for the Mental Health Day festivities.

Commemorated on October 10 each year, the day is observed around the world to raise awareness on the importance of being mentally well. It is a day set aside and dedicated to promoting the understanding of mental health education, awareness and advocacy.

Everyone has a part to play in creating a society that is mentally healthy.

Mental health affects different aspects of life in so many ways than one, even though it is viewed as taboo in many communities. And for people with diabetes, it can get in the way of how well they are able to manage the disease. If untreated, mental health issues can have a detrimental effect on the diabetics.

The mind can determine how healthy one’s body is through one’s feelings, attitude and beliefs.  

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be life-altering.

The doctor may instruct you to change certain habits in your life; from the diet, you may find that there are certain foods you can and cannot eat.

You may discover that you now have to continuously keep track of your sugar levels and perhaps even have to inject yourself and take certain medications at intervals. Basically you will find you cannot take a break from managing diabetes. 

Managing a condition such as diabetes alone can be quite unnerving.

This can be overwhelming and depression can creep in without you realising it. Minds can be affected as much as the bodies.

Stress can affect blood sugar levels. Stress hormones can make blood sugar levels rise or fall unexpectedly.

You may find diabetes involves the physical as well as the mental fight. 

According to WHO, over 350 million people, globally, experience diabetes.

According to studies, people with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes. Only 25 percent of people with diabetes as well as depression actually get diagnosed and treated. There are different types of diabetes — Type One diabetes and Type Two. 

With Type One diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin while blood sugar levels remain high, unless a person uses medication to manage it.

Type Two diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when blood sugar levels rise due to problems with how the body uses or produces insulin.

One in four people with both Type One and Type Two diabetes are affected by depression.

Adolescents with Type One diabetes have five times the rate of depression than adolescents who do not have Type One diabetes.

Generally people with diabetes are 20 percent more likely than those without to have anxiety.

Diabetes distress

Diabetes distress is an overwhelming feeling that one may experience as a diabetic patient. One may feel dejected, concerned or discouraged and eventually feel tired of managing his/her illness on a daily basis.

It is the toll of having diabetes.

In an 18-month period, 33-50 percent of people with diabetes suffer diabetes distress. 

Diabetes distress has the same traits as depression and anxiety — but it is mainly caused by fear. For instance, fear of having low sugar levels; maybe your health is not going well despite of all your efforts; perhaps other problems linked to diabetes have formed and left you feeling like death is knocking on your door; this may lead to distress.

This can result in one falling off the wagon; it may make one stop going for his/her doctor’s appointment; it can make a diabetic slip into bad habits and eventually stop checking his/her sugar levels all together.

Symptoms of depression

λfeeling tired and anxious

λfeeling worthless and irritable, guilty

λheartbeat that is faster than normal

λhaving trouble concentrating and making decisions 

λlosing interest in favourite activities

λovereacting or not wanting to eat all

λmaking bad decisions that may lead to bingeing on forbidden foods and

λhaving thoughts of death, among many more other symptoms

There are many ways to help a diabetic suffering from depression. 

First take note of your feelings. Write everything down; your thoughts, how you are managing them and what triggers negative feelings when it comes to diabetes.

Go on and write what calms you down. And refer back to it when you find yourself disturbed.

Reach out to family and friends or even engage a professional or join a support group or even befriend other diabetics.

Set goals that include healthy eating and exercise; practice meditation; become one with nature; take walks or just blend in with your surroundings.

It is important to note that having diabetes does not mean you will get depression but it is equally important to note down the symptoms so you can recognise them and get early treatment.

Everyone has mental health issues and we all need to take care of our own.


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