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The constant demands of living with diabetes may cause anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, this can be particularly challenging when someone is already living with an existing mental health condition.

You may experience a wide range of emotions after being diagnosed, including shock, anger, sadness, as well as fear. Nonetheless, talking about your feelings with your friends, family, and healthcare team can help you recognize your emotions and manage them.

Supportive family and friends play a crucial role in managing diabetes by providing practical assistance with tasks. They can prepare meals or remind you to take your medication, which will help you with your blood sugar management. They can also provide emotional support, like listening to your frustrations and concerns. Additionally, your healthcare team can teach you effective coping skills and locate health services that may help you.

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The Connection between Diabetes and Mental Health

A diabetes diagnosis can require you to change daily habits, which can seem daunting for many. In addition to checking blood sugar levels, taking medications, and making diet changes, keeping track of appointments and the cost of living with diabetes can be difficult. Therefore, you might feel too tired or overwhelmed to complete the daily tasks of self-management. 

In addition, rapid changes in blood sugars can cause fatigue, anxiety, and difficulty thinking.

Diabetes Distress

Diabetes distress happens when a person becomes overwhelmed by the burden of having this condition. Because of this, it is common to feel discouraged, worried, frustrated, and tired with the daily tasks of caring for your health. 

Diabetes distress affects 33 to 50 percent of people with diabetes, even those who have managed their health well for years. Unfortunately, medications are ineffective in treating this. Nevertheless, here are some tips to help you manage it:  

  • Consider a referral to a diabetes care team, which may include endocrinologists and diabetes educators. They can better understand the common challenges that relate to managing diabetes.
  • Consult a mental health counsellor specializing in chronic health conditions.
  • Rather than trying to manage everything at once, set one or two small goals that are easier to achieve.
  • Consider joining a diabetes support group where you can talk to others that share the same concerns.
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What Is Mental Illness and How Can You Recognize It?

A mental illness is a condition characterized by changes in emotion, thinking, and behaviour. The symptoms of mental illness often include distress or difficulties functioning in social, work, as well as family settings. Additionally, it’s hard for people to manage their diabetes when living with symptoms of mental illness.

It may be difficult to distinguish between diabetes distress and depression or anxiety as symptoms overlap. It is also possible to have them all at the same time, making it even more difficult to manage.

Individuals who have mental health conditions may find it uncomfortable to talk about it with others. However, taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Your healthcare team can help with distinguishing between depression or anxiety vs. diabetes distress. Treatment options are available, including counselling with a therapist or medications, if needed.

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In Conclusion

Living with mental health and diabetes can be difficult and overwhelming. However, you are not alone. Family, friends, and your diabetes team can help you to navigate the challenges of living with diabetes and mental health conditions.  

If you think you are struggling with mental illness or diabetes distress, consult your primary care provider, diabetes care team or mental health professional for support.

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