Understanding the emotional and psychological effects of diabetes is crucial to embracing prevention

Individuals at risk of prediabetes or diabetes often fear the physical effects, but in many cases fail to consider the emotional and psychological implications of the disease. Physical discomfort, self-medication, and outpatient treatment can all add stressors to daily life that are compounded over time. Diabetes, because it requires constant care and attention, brings the psychological effects to the forefront.

Acknowledging the mind-body connection 

We’ve discussed the physical effects, analyzing how bodily systems are overworked, leading to a litany of physical health problems. These physical problems, in turn, promote chemical imbalances affecting the mood and overall ability to interact socially. The mind-body connection is quite powerful, and physical stressors can result in higher or lower levels of adrenaline and other chemicals. 

Individuals with low blood sugar levels have shown a tendency to exhibit the following symptoms: intense hunger, difficulty making decisions, difficulty concentrating, irritability, aggression, and more. When regulating blood sugar is an issue, prediabetic and diabetic individuals are also susceptible to the side effects of high blood sugar levels, which include nervousness, low energy levels, and states of confusion. 

Individuals with prediabetes or diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer symptoms of depression, and only 25-50% of these individuals receive proper care. In fact, depression is so common amongst diabetics, that it’s been given its own medical term: diabetes distress. While individuals with the condition experience similar side effects to individuals with depression and anxiety, diabetes distress can’t be treated with the same medications, whereas the psychological effects are caused by physical rather than mental imbalances. 

Diagnosis and dealing with emotions 

The symptoms often begin when an individual is officially diagnosed with prediabetic or diabetic blood sugar levels, wherein they face the realization that they’ll have to manage the condition for the rest of their lives. These reactions were traced in a recent study, and the following reactions were noted by doctors giving the diagnosis: 

  • Anger and Guilt: A common reaction to a diabetes diagnosis, anger prevents the individual from looking forward with positivity toward treatment, instead blaming others or themselves for not acting sooner.
  • Denial: Denial is also common, and is one of the most dangerous reactions. Individuals who wish to downplay or simply ignore the diagnosis are at a much higher risk of developing further complications as a result of inconsistent treatment. 
  • Depression: Often, individuals leave the doctor’s office feeling as if they’ve missed out on their opportunity to live a healthy life. Rather than staying positive about treatment, they retreat into the most common pitfalls of depression, losing sleep or oversleeping, feeling fatigued, experiencing a loss of appetite or overeating, and other extremes, such as developing schizophrenia, that further complicate treatment. 

Ripple effect 

With the immense number of individuals suffering from prediabetes or diabetes, the psychological effects undoubtedly create ramifications for those around them. Family members, coworkers, and friends are all effected by disruptions in the social environment they share. These social interactions are also altered by the daily management of the condition. 

For family members, dietary guidelines for family meals may be changed, and may not be accepted by all. Friends may feel ignored due to the extra time diabetes treatment takes from the individual, and coworkers may become frustrated by issues that arise in the workplace as a result of psychological imbalances. These same individuals, however, can also be an irreplaceable source of support for individuals with diabetes or prediabetes, providing motivation and accountability. 

Acting toward prevention

Having weighed the emotional and psychological effects of a diabetes or prediabetes diagnosis, we certainly recommend acting toward prevention. 

Changes in diet and exercise have proven to show the best results, but this is most often unique to the individual. There is no “one size fits all” diet, meaning individuals need to address their unique fitness needs, as well as attempt to determine what foods trigger glucose spikes in their bloodstream. As research has shown, understanding your individual microbiome can allow you to eliminate only the foods that promote high blood sugar. This allows individuals to maintain a healthy diet of diverse nutrients and avoids the common pitfalls of the “miracle diets” that are so often marketed and sold to the public. 

Day Two offers an individualized plan that uses microbiome science to recommend a diet that works for you. This not only helps eliminate blood sugar spikes to prevent the progression from prediabetes to diabetes, but simplifies the diet portion of treatment, allowing you to develop recipes and meal schedules that work best for you. Simplifying treatment, eating foods you love, and trusting the science can all help promote positivity and motivation, both of which can help you avoid the emotional and psychological problems associated with diabetes.

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