Diabetes & Behavioral Health
Maintaining emotional health with diabetes
Allegheny Health Network’s AHN Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health can help you deal with completely natural emotions, such as stress, sadness, anger, and denial before they lead to a more serious state of depression.
The following are signs that you may need medical support to help deal with your emotions:
- Feeling that diabetes is taking too much of your mental and physical energy every day
- Feeling angry, scared, and/or depressed when you think about living with diabetes
- Feeling that you’re often failing with your diabetes routine
- Feeling that diabetes controls your life
- Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes
- Not feeling motivated to keep up with your diabetes self-management
- Feeling that friends or family aren’t emotionally supportive
Managing stress with diabetes
Everyone deals with stress. However, managing stress is even more important when you have diabetes. Stress can increase or decrease blood sugar. At the AHN Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health, we can help you find ways to manage stress so you can improve your overall health.
Managing depression with diabetes
Most people with diabetes don’t suffer from the symptoms of depression; however, research shows that people with diabetes are at higher risk of depression than those without diabetes.
The answer as to why is complicated. If, for example, the diabetes is poorly controlled, it can cause symptoms that look like depression, such as fatigue, anxiety, disturbed sleep, and overeating.
Diabetes is also the perfect breeding ground for other symptoms of depression, such as anger and denial. For example, you may feel angry that diabetes has changed your life. Then you may refuse to face healthcare needs because you refuse to change our life. Your diabetes then goes uncared for and your blood sugar levels remain high. As your disease goes on poorly controlled, your anger about your situation grows. Feelings of loss, sadness, anger, and denial are common. It is important to recognize the signs of depression and get the help you need.
Support & treatment at the AHN Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health
At Allegheny Health Network, our Behavioral Health Consultant (BHC) can help you with the emotional aspects of managing your diabetes, as well as other barriers to maximizing your overall health and well-being.
Areas of focus may include:
- Sleep issues, including daytime sleepiness
- Setting appropriate, attainable health goals
- Addressing lifestyle, cultural, psychosocial, educational, and economic factors that influence diabetes management
- Social withdrawal and isolation from others
- Emotional eating issues
- Physical activity and exercise
- Stimulus control for blood sugar testing
- Stress and anxiety management
- Depression treatment
- Social support from family, including resolving conflicts around diabetes care
- Dealing with the emotional impact of chronic illness
Five rules for help in dealing with stress and depression that can occur with diabetes
- Find a doctor who will work for and with you. When you have an illness like diabetes, your relationship with your doctor is critical. You must be able trust them and be comfortable being completely honest with them. Don’t be afraid to do the research to find one who works for you.
- Define your support carefully. Isolation can lead to depression. Keep in mind that people in your life may surprise you. Casual friends may step up and provide needed support while others you thought you could count on don’t. If someone you know well asks, “How do you feel?” tell them the truth. A caring friend or family member can take the pressure off when the news is either bad or good.
- Protect your health as you would a small child. You are more than your diabetes. Get to know your body and what it needs to stay healthy. When yellow warning lights start blinking, it’s time to stop, assess, and make changes. Set limits for yourself and develop the ability to say “no.”
- Set goals and ways to achieve them. To thrive with diabetes, rethink your priorities. Setting goals and achieving them can be tough. Ask yourself, are the goals you set reasonable? And if so, can you manage them all by yourself, or do you need help to achieve them? This is where you need courage to address old habits so that you can do things differently—the new and improved way.
- Have dreams and make them reality. Everyone has ambitions. Your dreams might be to get a degree, promotion, have kids, travel, get married, run a marathon, or write a book. A diabetes diagnosis does not mean that you have to give up your dreams! In fact, if you manage and control your diabetes, it will not stand in the way of making your dreams your reality. A positive outlook with a plan, developed by you and the Diabetes Care Team, can help you keep stress and depression at a manageable level. Then your dreams can become attainable goals; and those goals can create a new health and wellness reality for you.