Research tells us that mental health conditions and diabetes are linked. Those living with diabetes have a higher risk of mental illness. What’s more, some mental illnesses (or the medications used to treat them) can increase the risk of developing diabetes. For instance, people living with diabetes are almost twice as likely to develop depression. It is estimated that about 15 per cent of people with diabetes are struggling with depression. Having both diabetes and a mental illness can find make it even harder to control blood glucose, follow an exercise plan, or use medication properly.
Living with diabetes and an untreated mental health condition is a concern. The risk of developing complications related to diabetes rises, while both quality of life and life span can be reduced.
Just as many different physical illnesses exist, mental illness can come in many forms. Simply stated, mental illness is a medical condition affecting your thoughts, feelings and the way you act. Unfortunately, mental illnesses are not always understood by society. As well, people are often afraid to talk about how they are feeling.
The good news is that all mental illnesses can be treated. Sometimes treatment involves different types of counselling, sometimes medication, and sometimes both.
Everyone feels discouraged at some point. However, depression is more than just feeling down, or being troubled about diabetes. Similarly, anxiety disorder is more than worrying about low blood glucose.
If you find yourself struggling with depression or anxiety, share your concerns with your health care team immediately. Many strategies exist to help lighten the load. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing medication to reduce the chance of low blood glucose.
If you suspect that you, or someone you care about, may be experiencing mental illness, get help and talk about it.
A mental illness does not mean a person is weak. There is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed. The brain is the most complex organ in the body. Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain affecting a person’s mental well-being.
Many types of mental illness exist. Mood disorders include depression and bipolar disorder. Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest, lasting more than two weeks. Although it can be debilitating, it can also sometimes be hard to notice. If you are experiencing depression, you may feel empty, hopeless, tired or numb for long periods of time. You may lose interest in activities that you previously enjoyed. In bipolar mood disorder, periods of depression are contrasted with feelings of high mood or energy, which can also cause problems. Anxiety disorders include excessive and uncontrollable worry, unwanted thoughts, panic attacks, or fears from a past scary event. Eating disorders are another form of mental illness. An eating disorder is about more than your relationship with food. This complex illness can be about regaining a sense of control or coping with a difficult problem.
Although diabetes is associated with a higher risk of mental illness, it does not mean a mental illness will happen to you.
You can take action to protect your mental health. First, you do not have to go it alone with diabetes. Get support from family, friends, community groups and your health care team. Do not ignore diabetes either. High blood glucose does not always feel bad, but can cause serious complications over time if not managed well.
Take the time to learn about diabetes and different treatment options available to you. Find out the results of your blood tests and learn what they mean. Talk to your diabetes health care team. Many different strategies can help you successfully fit managing diabetes into your life. You will likely discover that you have more options than you thought.
Managing diabetes is difficult enough without an additional burden. Mental illness is a real, physical condition that can, and should, be treated. If you have concerns about your mental health, the first step is to start talking about it. Discuss your concerns with a friend or family member you trust, your diabetes educator, or your doctor.