How Does Diabetes Affect Your Mood?We all know the physical symptoms of diabetes. However, it’s also important to consider the mental and emotional impacts living with the disease can have on you and those around you. One of the big questions many have regarding diabetes is, “can diabetes lead to mood swings?” The answer is yes.
In fact, changes in mood are an entirely normal part of living with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Some of these ups and downs can be the result of the pressure due to the many responsibilities that come with regularly managing blood glucose levels. Other mood swings are emotional responses caused by blood sugar that’s either too high or too low.
It’s important to understand the role diabetes can have on mental state and emotions because changes in mood, which often lead to changes in behavior, impact both the person living with diabetes and the family and friends surrounding that person.
Mood swings due to changes in blood sugar
The fact is blood sugar impacts how you feel. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), for most people the target range for healthy blood sugar levels are as follows:
– 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter (md/dL) before a meal
– Less than 180 mg/dL when testing a few hours after eating
Your diabetes physician may establish a slightly different range for you based on your individual condition, however, this is a good barometer for most living with the disease.
When blood sugar exceeds or dips below these levels, it can lead to diabetes-related mood swings.
How does high blood sugar impact mood?
When blood glucose becomes elevated, the related mood swings can vary from more aggressive reactions to detached ones. For example, you might develop a heightened state of tension or nervousness that results in a short fuse and causes you to feel angry for no good reason. Or you might slip into a state of sadness that causes you to feel tired and lead you to withdraw from those closest to you. You might also feel as though you’ve slipped into a “foggy” state that makes it difficult to manage life’s daily challenge and responsibilities, leading to frustration or anxiety.
How does low blood sugar impact mood?
Hypoglycemic episodes can happen when blood sugar falls below target levels with most occurring when blood sugar drops lower than 70 mg/dL. Changes in mood related to hypoglycemia can include nervousness, irritability, aggressiveness, and confusion.
However, low blood sugar can also result in a temporary state of euphoria or elation, a feeling that has been described as being slightly drunk. This, of course, hinders the individual’s ability to get their blood sugar back under control because they feel this sense of enhanced happiness.
If left unchecked, this elated state can quickly change into a darker and more volatile one. This occurs because the body, when experiencing hypoglycemia, releases adrenaline in an attempt to convert any available glycogen being stored in the liver into glucose in order to boost levels in the bloodstream.
This added adrenaline naturally triggers the body’s “flight or fight” response which can quickly contribute to irritability and even lead to aggressive behavior. Not only is this a concern for friends, family and coworkers who live and work alongside the person, it can also hinder the individual’s ability to focus on getting blood sugar back under control.
Sometimes mood swings related to diabetes have nothing to do with out-of-control blood sugar and have everything to do with feeling overwhelmed due to the daily pressures and responsibilities of managing diabetes.
Testing blood sugar multiple teams each day; taking insulin injections and other medications on schedule; watching what you eat; getting enough exercise; and all the other rigors associated with managing diabetes can take an emotional toll.
Sometimes it gets to be too much, and people develop a condition often referred to as diabetes distress or diabetes burnout. Essentially, the stress of managing diabetes leads to feelings of hopelessness, which can manifest outwardly in a number of ways, including triggering mood swings from irritability to resentment to feelings of guilt and sadness.
Diabetic mood swings and relationships
While diabetic mood swings are certainly hard on the person experiencing them, they are arguably even more difficult for the family and friends forced to share these ups and downs. Relationships are often strained by diabetic mood swings and the conflicts that result can be difficult to overcome.
What can you do if you’re living with someone who has diabetes? Take the time to understand both the physical and mental effects of the disease and learn to recognize the signs that something isn’t quite right:
– Angry outbursts
The first step toward treating mood swings is identifying them, and the sooner you do that, the better your chances of enjoying a happy and healthy relationship.
It’s also important to set clear boundaries. In rare instances, mood swings can go too far and become emotionally and even physically abusive. If you are in a relationship that involves any type of abuse, seek help. One resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799.SAFE.
Controlling blood sugar is the best way to control mood swings.
As we’ve already stated, many mood swings can be attributed directly to blood sugar that has gotten out of control - either too high or too low. So, the best way to minimize these fluctuations is to keep your blood glucose level in your doctor-recommended target range. In other words, follow the diabetes treatment program outline by your physician.
- Test your blood sugar regularly
Whether you use a glucose meter and test strips or a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM), be sure to follow your doctor-recommended testing schedule and take the appropriate action to remedy the situation should your blood sugar test high or low.
- Take prescribed medications on time
Insulin injections by syringe or pen needle and other medications are prescribed by your doctor for one reason - to keep your blood sugar in check. Take your medication on time and always follow your doctor’s instructions.
- Try to make smart diet and lifestyle choices
The food you eat, the amount of physical activity you get, and the tools you use to cope with stress and anxiety all contribute to how well you’re able to manage blood sugar. Therefore, these things also play a major role in avoiding those sudden mood swings.
- Find a support network
Living with diabetes can be draining. Make sure you have a strong support network around you. It might be family or friends. Or you might prefer a diabetes support group filled with others who understand the challenges of managing diabetes. The point is we all need help now and then and it’s nice to know there’s a shoulder to lean on when that time comes.
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