Having type 2 diabetes can affect not only your physical health but also your emotional health. Getting a diagnosis of diabetes adds an emotional weight onto your shoulders which can be challenging to carry day in and day out. Sometimes this weight can come out as other conditions such as anxiety or depression.
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The Grief of Diagnosis
When you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may notice that you start to experience a grieving process. Many people experience the same emotions associated with the loss of a loved one. When you consider the diagnosis of diabetes, it changes your life, you have lost something and you’ve lost your normal carefree life that you had before.
These common emotions are explained in more detail below as well as various the ways you can learn to control these emotions or even overcome them.
Common Emotions of Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires diligent almost 24/7 management. Sometimes this type of schedule can seem like a burden. When this happens, other common emotions or conditions may manifest, causing even more difficulty in managing your blood sugar levels.
Stress is one of the most common emotions associated with having type 2 diabetes. Just the constant daily regimen of testing, ensuring you’re taking your medications and monitoring your food intake, may seem like a full time job in itself. Add to this routine, a career, a family, and other typical life activities, and stress is almost inevitable. The problem with stress, in addition to the emotional weight it places on you, is that it can also affect your blood sugar levels as well. Stress is known to cause a rise and also a fluctuation in blood sugar levels which can make it more difficult to stay within your target range.
What Can You Do?
While you cannot get rid of stress completely, you can effectively learn how to manage it so that it doesn’t cause even more damage to your diabetes management efforts. If your stress seems to be surrounding the challenge of diabetes management, there are a few things you can do to help reduce this stress.
- Establish Clear Goals
- Keep Regularly Scheduled Appointments
- Set Reminders for Medication
- Ask for Help
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Physical fatigue of diabetes management can seem like you are always in a fog and unable to shake it. However, in addition to the physical fatigue associated with having type 2 diabetes, mental fatigue can be just as debilitating. The physical fatigue you may be feeling can be directly caused from fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can also cause issues with mental fatigue, making every day tasks such as concentration, memory and thinking skills seem almost impossible.
What Can You Do?
If your fatigue symptoms are directly tied to your blood sugar levels, gaining better and more tight control may help to eliminate or reduce these symptoms. However, if your blood sugar levels are already under control, there may be another cause. Other medical conditions associated with diabetes can be the root cause of any fatigue you may be experiencing.
Conditions such as:
- Low Testosterone
- Heart Disease
- Side Effects from Medications
- An interrupted Sleeping Schedule
Working to get to the root cause can help you to feel like yourself again.
Denial can be a dangerous emotion to deal with when it comes to diabetes. This is because potentially denying that you suffer from type 2 diabetes and not adhering to your regimen including medications can be life threatening.
What Can You Do?
Learning how to confront the feelings of denial such as fear, guilt, anger and frustration can be very beneficial in your overall management. Keeping these feelings inside and not tackling them head on can seem like a short-term fix, but the long term consequences can keep you in an endless feeling of being stuck and unable to do anything about it.
Talking to someone that understands first hand about diabetes denial can really give you a sense of freedom that you never have experienced before. One of the biggest factors to being successful with your diabetes management is to have a network of people who you can lean on or a close support system that understands what you have to life with each day. You can seek therapy and/or join in-person or online networking groups available to people with diabetes.
Anger is a strong feeling which often times can be a destructive emotion that can directly impact your physical and emotional health. Anger can kick off the emotion of stress, which causes your heart rate to increase, blood sugar levels to rise and even your blood pressure to increase. As you can see the emotion of anger not only affects your diabetes health but other areas of your health as well.
Anger can be directly tied to another diabetes related condition known as diabetes burnout.
What Can You Do?
Learning to uncover the triggers that cause you to become angry can be an effective tool in managing this anger. Also referred to as mindfulness, this approach has shown to be a long lasting aid in anger management. Trigger recognition allows you to be able to respond instead of giving an automated reaction.
Having a hobby or even being able to participate in physical activities such as an exercise routine or even yoga, can help to alleviate and even stop anger in its tracks.
Diabetes can seem like a newborn baby who requires constant attention, time and dedication. However, the difference between diabetes and a newborn baby is that diabetes does not grow up. The attention that it craves and requires never goes away. The relentless effort required to manage diabetes can sometimes lead into a condition known as ‘diabetes burnout’. This occurs when the daily tasks required to care for your diabetes become too much to handle, or you become unwilling to make the necessary changes for better management.
What Can You Do?
Ignoring diabetes completely can be harmful to your overall health and increase your risks of developing complications. While the feelings associated with diabetes burnout are completely normal, there are methods you can use to alleviate the stress that associated with diabetes management. Motivation can be your best friend when it comes to diabetes burnout. Before you can gather the motivation necessary, you must first recognize that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ diabetes patient.
You should not expect to ALWAYS have blood sugar levels within your recommended target range. Often times the unrealistic goals that those with diabetes place on themselves in terms of their management can be the source of stress and frustration which leads into diabetes burnout. Learning to forgive yourself when you have a blood sugar number out of your target range can be the first step to gaining the motivation you need to pull yourself out of diabetes burnout.
Having a support system that you can lean on when times get tough can help pull you through a potential diabetes burnout, as well as keep you motivated and on track with your care and treatment. If you don’t have a support system of friends and family, speaking to a therapist can be a great starting point to gaining the support system you need. Having the ability to talk to someone when things get a bit challenging can help to reduce some of the weight you feel you are carrying and ensure you comply with your diabetes management plan.
Learning to develop a meal plan and sticking to it is another way to learn how to effectively manager not only your diabetes but also your emotions. Various foods and the way your body reacts to them, especially those high in carbohydrates can directly effect your mood. Learning how to identify these food triggers can also help you in your goal of managing emotions. By utilizing a detailed food list such as this, you can keep track of how certain foods make you feel.
Effects of Not Dealing with Your Emotions
When you allow your emotions to overcome you it can take a huge toll on you both physically and mentally. While your diabetes care will suffer as part of your lack of dealing with your emotions, there are other consequences aside from your diabetes management.
When you don’t deal with your emotions, these common side effects can occur:
- Disturbance in Your Sleep Schedule
- No Longer Interested in Hobbies or Activities
- Withdrawal from Your Friends and Family
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Extreme Fatigue
- Considering Suicide or Ways to Hurt Yourself
- A Sudden Loss or Gain of Weight
- A Feeling That Diabetes Has Ruined Your Life
- Lack of Self-Care
- Ignoring Your Diagnosis
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Overcoming Depression and Other Mental Conditions
- An Inactive Sex Life
The Connection Between Blood Sugar Levels & Emotions
Changes in your blood sugar levels can also directly impact your emotions. But emotions such as anxiety or depression can also have an affect on how your body works to regulate your blood sugar levels.
How Blood Sugar Effects Emotions
Prolonged periods or frequent episodes of hypo and hyperglycemia can have a direct affect on your emotions. Low blood sugar levels can cause confusion and anxiety. While high blood sugar levels can cause increased fatigue, concentration issues and even may lead to periods of depression.
Depression can impact your care and management of your diabetes. Those who suffer from depression and diabetes have been shown to have poor glycemic control. This can become a vicious cycle. With poor control, depression can worsen. Some anti-depressants can cause issues with hypoglycemia which can be potentially dangerous for someone with type 2 diabetes. Talking to your doctor about what steps to take in addressing any depression episodes can help to increase your overall management.
Those with diabetes that also suffer from anxiety have been shown to have much higher a1c levels than those without anxiety. Panic attacks or even smaller episodes of anxiety can directly interfere with your ability to manage your diabetes. Learning how to manage your anxiety with the proper coping skills can help to decrease the number of panic attacks you may be experiencing. Some helpful techniques include:
- Deep breathing
- Self hypnosis
Stress and diabetes can be a bad combination if they are not handled appropriately. When the body is feeling stress, your adrenal glands release the glucose that is stored in the body. This in turn increases your blood sugar levels. Learning how to effectively manage stressors in your daily life can help to reduce your blood sugar levels and work with you to manage your diabetes instead of against you.
Why it is Important to Learn How to Cope with Emotions?
As you can see, learning how to cope and handle emotions appropriately can be another valuable tool in managing your diabetes. Type 2 diabetes management is challenging enough, but add to that the obstacles emotions can put in your way; it can seem virtually impossible. This is another reason that having a support system is HUGE in the success of your diabetes management. When you start to feel overwhelmed by the tasks of managing your diabetes, this can in turn lead to increased anxiety and stress, which increases blood sugar levels, which also leads to increased emotions and so on and so forth. You can see how it quickly becomes an endless cycle. Learning to deal with your emotions before they take control can help you feel better physically and emotionally.
If you notice that you are experiencing at least three of these symptoms or more, it may take time to reach out for help. Talk to your doctor or your diabetes care team about how you are feeling. When things get tough, you need to turn to your support system or trusted people in your life. One of the most important things you can do is to remember that you are not alone in your new life of diabetes. You can make the decision to either take control of your diabetes or let it control you.