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Managing diabetes can be tough, not only because of the physical symptoms but the impact it can have on mental health. As well as monitoring daily insulin levels, diabetes sufferers must also remember to shine a light on their daily mood levels and look after their emotional wellbeing.
Diabetes is an incurable disease that affects 1.7 million Australian’s and is the fastest growing chronic health disease in the country. Diabetes, whether its type 1 or type 2, can lead to serious complications like limb amputation, blindness, stroke, heart attack as well as clinical depression. Although manageable through medication, lifestyle, exercise and diet, the disease requires strict daily monitoring of glucose levels and physical health. As psychologists, we are naturally concerned about the impact of the disease on mental health and would suggest it is equally as important to regularly monitor mental and emotional health, as depression and anxiety can exacerbate symptoms and lead to physical deterioration.
The all-consuming relentless management of the disease can leave many diabetes sufferers feeling exhausted and burnt out, so it’s not surprising that it can take its toll on mental and emotional health. Research suggests that up to half of all people living with diabetes, will suffer from depression and anxiety disorders at some point. Families, including children of diabetes sufferers, are also at much higher risk of developing mental health conditions, as a direct result of lifestyle and emotional impacts the disease.
Depression and anxiety, like diabetes, are medical conditions that with effective treatment can be managed. The first step is to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety and take appropriate action to better understand your feelings and reboot the way your brain thinks, feels and eventually acts.
Everyone feels a little blue sometimes but depression is different from low mood and can include the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of worthless-ness
  • Low motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Loss of appetite or major weight gain or loss
  • Changes in sleep patterns- either insomnia or sleeping more than usual
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Suicidal thoughts

It’s important to recognise chronic feelings that relate to the illness, like anger, resentment and exhaustion, and it can be helpful to express these emotions with someone who understands the demands of the disease. This may be a friend, a family member or a psychologist. Joining a diabetes support group or exercise group where you are with others who understand the demands of the disease can also be therapeutic and socially beneficial.
Sane Australia- The Sane Guide to Good Mental Health for People Affected by Diabetes
Diabetes Australia-