Emotional Toll Of Diabetes

The emotional toll of a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes can be very difficult for some people. This is particularly true if there is a family history of diabetes where the other family members have had medical complications, emotional difficulties or decreased quality of life after the diagnosis. One major consideration for people that are diagnosed with diabetes is to be proactive in seeking counseling and support prior to finding themselves with feelings of depression, despair or anxiety.

In a study in Madrid, diabetic patients were compared to non-diabetic patients of the same age, gender and geographic location within the study. Of the 1,074 people interviewed to determine health-related quality of life, it was found that diabetics, particularly older women, reported a significantly lower health related quality of life. Factors that influence their lower ranks on the questionnaire included being obese, not participating in regular physical activity, having a sedate lifestyle, using sleeping pills, the presence of cerebrovascular diseases and a coexisting diagnosis of depression or Alzheimer’s disease.1

Many people, particularly those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may feel absolutely overwhelmed with the diagnosis. They may feel that their life is out of control or that they are not able to cope with a condition that is not curable and may cause increased risk of other health conditions as they age. One very important consideration for people in this situation is to get as much education as possible about diabetes, healthy living and lifestyles and also about managing and coping with diabetes. The more people understand about diabetes, the more they feel they can take control of their lives back from a disease that threatens to take it away their control.

Responding To The Diagnosis

It is essential to give yourself time to deal with a diagnosis of diabetes. For some people the requirements to test blood glucose levels, give themselves insulin or change their lifestyles may seem too big of a change to make. It is very common for people first diagnosed with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes to feel very angry and wonder why this has happened. Women with gestational diabetes may have incredible concerns about the health of their baby or the implications for their own health as they age.

Many people are also afraid for their future with a diagnosis of diabetes. This can include fear of loss of independence and an ability to live the life they want. It can also include fear of the complications associated with diabetes including hypertension, higher risk for heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease, the development of kidney disease or diabetic neuropathy. Still others may be concerned about losing their eyesight or have a fear of loss of a limb due to diabetic complications.

While education can really help in dealing with these fears and anxieties about the condition, taking care to obtain support and mental health counseling is also seen as essential. Being able to process the fears and anxieties that the diagnosis causes allows the individual to make positive changes in their lifestyle and daily routines that can minimize the risk of any concurrent medical conditions occurring. As individuals begin to see real progress in their overall health, weight loss and blood sugar regulation they will become more motivate to continue to make positive changes.

Depression And Diabetes

Depression is a concurrent mental health condition with diabetes. Individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes are statistically more likely to develop depression in their lives than individuals without diabetes or other types of chronic health conditions. Unfortunately, within the population of people with diabetes the prevalence of depression is often overlooked by medical health care professionals who are often more focused on the physical aspects of the disease.

In a study that attempted to determine the level of diagnosis of serious psychological stress in individuals with depression some very problematic issues were discovered. The study found that those diagnosed with diabetes were less likely to be treated for serious psychological stress than similar aged peers without diabetes. This number was increased if multiple factors, including race, age, insurance status and unemployment were also present. 2

Mental health issues may also lead to an increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a research study that evaluated the overall level of obesity in those diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia it was found that this population has a much higher obesity rate than the general population. This is also a corresponding increase in cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases and diabetes. 3

Despite these higher numbers, research also shows that exercise, education about diabetes self-management and often minor changes in dietary intake can produce dramatic changes. Working as a team, medical professionals and mental health professionals can develop very comprehensive plans that will assist people with diabetes or with depression to focus on the positive results they can obtain through diet and exercise along with corresponding blood glucose regulation. If you are depressed, or even think you might be depressed, do not hesitate to discuss this with your doctor who will be able help you.

Preventing Depression

The great news for people that are depressed or those that are diagnosed with diabetes is that simple exercise can have a very positive effect on both conditions. In a study of patients hospitalized for major depression researchers found that adding exercise to inpatient therapy and traditional depression treatments had very positive results. The study showed an increased quality of life for those in the study that had exercise three times a week along with a corresponding drop in depressive symptoms. 4 In another study, 40% of depressed patients who exercised 180 minutes per week showed found their depression symptoms resolved by the end of the study. This is compared to just 10% who did not exercise regularly.

Exercise also has other benefits as well. It helps to promote socialization, particularly if the individual attends an exercise class, goes to a gym or joins a team or club. Exercise, which can be as simple as walking with a friend, is great for both the body as well as for overall mental health.

Seeking help if you start to feel anxious or depressed about your health conditions is also important. Speaking to friends, religious leaders, your doctor, family members or to a counselor or therapist can really help. There are also medications that can help with depression and may be used with your diabetes medications without any complications or additional health concerns.


1 Pena, M. M., Hernandez Barrera, V., Fernandez Cordero, X., et al. (2010). Self-perception of health status, mental health and quality of life among adults with diabetes residing in a metropolitan area. Diabetes & Metabolism , 305-311.

2 Li, C., Ford, E. S., Zhao, G., et al. (2010). Undertreatment of Mental Health Problems in Adults With Diagnosed Diabetes and Serious Psychological Distress. Diabetes Care , 1061-1064.

3 Allison, D. B., Newcomer, J. W., Dunn, A. L., et al. (2009). Obesity Among Those with Mental Disorders: A National Institute of Mental Health Meeting Report. American Journal of Preventative Medicine , 341-350.

4 Schuch, F. B., Vasconcelos-Moreno, M. P., Borowsky, C., & Fleck, M. P. (2011). Exercise and severe depression: Preliminary results of an add-on study. Journal of Affective Disorders , 615-618.

5 This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.