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Mental Health and Type 2 Diabetes

Lesson 2

How do you handle the mental health aspect of living with Type 2 diabetes?

 It is common to just focus on treating the physical condition when diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. But the condition doesn’t just affect your physical health; it also affects your mental health. The news of having Type 2 diabetes alone can trigger a myriad of emotions — from anger or denial to depression and anxiety — any of which can affect your mental wellbeing.

On the other hand, the emotional challenges can affect how you follow your treatment plan and the diabetic lifestyle in general. If you’re anxious or depressed, you may miss your exercise routine or eat what you’re not supposed to eat. In fact, the diagnosis of diabetes is the beginning of an emotional journey, just as it is the beginning of a new lifestyle.

When you’re able to handle the mental health aspect of the illness, you are more likely to handle the physical demands of the condition. Having said that, let’s take a look at some of the emotional problems that may get in your way of managing Type 2 diabetes and how to handle them.

The common mental health issues people with Type 2 diabetes may experience

People living with Type 2 diabetes can experience a wide range of emotions at different stages of their journey with the condition.

  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diabetic burnout

Anger

It is possible to get angry when your doctor tells you that you have Type 2 diabetes. You may feel like, “Why does it have to be me?” It is understandable to feel that little bit of anger at this point, and normally, the feeling should ease up with time as anger is often a stage in accepting the new situation.

However, if the feeling doesn’t go away or you frequently feel an outburst of anger, you may find it difficult to embrace your new diabetic lifestyle. To handle this early emotional storm, try to find out the cause of your anger and address it. Another thing you can do is to write down your thoughts when the anger starts building. You can reach out to your family and friend for support, see a therapist, and find an online diabetes support group.

Denial

While the news of having Type 2 diabetes may trigger anger in some people, in others, it may be denial. It is natural if you have that, “it can’t be possible” or “definitely not me” or “it must be a mistake”, felling at the beginning. With time, the diagnosis should become a reality that you willingly accept and seek the appropriate solution.

The emotional problem arises when you continue to deny the condition and don’t seek the right medical remedy. This is more common among those who believe in faith-based healing and those who generally don’t take their health seriously. You need to discuss with your diabetes educator to better understand the condition, the things required of you, and why you need to keep to your management plan and make the necessary lifestyle changes.

Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the emotional problems you may develop as your journey with diabetes progresses. It is the feeling of fear and worry about an unknown outcome. Anxiety can come in the form of constant worry, a racing heartbeat, feeling nervous, trembling, sweating, and having a hard time relaxing.

Different aspects of managing Type 2 diabetes can create these feelings. You may be worried about your blood glucose levels or your ability to keep to your management plan. When you are getting overwhelmed with thoughts, you may need to talk to someone, take a quick walk, or try some relaxation exercises like yoga.

Since low blood sugar can create a feeling of nervousness, trembling, sweating, and increased heartbeat, please ensure you check your blood sugar first whenever you feel anxious.

Depression

Depression is a prolonged feeling of sadness or emotional flatness, with a loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy. It can make you feel hopeless and lose interest in living. You may also have body aches, suicidal thoughts, and difficulty staying asleep.

The demands of managing Type 2 diabetes and adjusting to a new lifestyle can make you depressed if you’re not getting adequate support. And, depression, in turn, will make it difficult for you to follow your diabetic management plan. If you are feeling depressed, talk with your doctor immediately. It may be necessary to refer you to a psychotherapist.

Diabetes burnout

Also known as diabetes distress, this condition is associated with a feeling of frustration, discouragement, and worry that arises when you feel you aren’t making any progress with your diabetes care, despite your best efforts. It feels like you should take a break from it all, and you may develop unhealthy habits, such as missing your clinical visits, not taking your medications as prescribed, and not monitoring your sugar levels.

When you feel overwhelmed by the complexity of your diabetic management plan, discuss it with your doctor or your diabetic educator. It also helps to set goals that focus on one aspect of the management plan at a time.

Tips for handling your mental health

Here are some tips that may help:

  • Use breathing exercise to calm your nerves when anxious
  • Try meditations
  • Ensure regular physical exercise
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Eat healthily
  • Try to get enough sleep
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