Diabetes: Stress & Depression

A diabetes diagnosis, new or long-standing, can trigger emotions like grief, stress, and frustration. However, reducing your stress levels can help you manage your diabetes.

How is diabetes linked to emotion?

You have been challenged with the diagnosis of diabetes. Whether it is a new diagnosis or a longstanding one, living with this challenge can trigger a flood of emotions. Some of these emotions can include:

  • Grief
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Disappointment
  • Stress

These emotions are natural responses and are experienced by many people, especially when they are first diagnosed with diabetes. These emotions might also be experienced by someone managing diabetes over the long term. Emotional issues may make it harder to take care of you — to eat right, exercise and rest — which in turn can affect your blood sugar. In addition, you might find yourself trying to reduce stress with unhealthy behaviors, which can contribute to diabetes complications.


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What is stress?

Most people experience stress as an emotional or physical strain. It can result in worry, anxiety, and tension. Everyday events or changes in life may create stress. Stress affects everyone to some degree, but it may be more difficult to manage when people learn that they have diabetes.

Symptoms of stress can include:

  • Nervousness
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Stomach upset
  • Depression

Stress can make it more difficult to manage your diabetes as it may throw off your daily routine and can result in wear and tear on your body. Hormones from stress increase your blood pressure, raise your heart rate, and can cause blood sugar to rise. High blood sugar can make you feel down or tired. Low blood sugar may result in your feeling upset or nervous.

How can I reduce stress in my life?

There are many things you can do to reduce stress. The following are some suggestions:

  • Take your medications as directed and eat healthy meals.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.
  • Get some exercise. You can reduce stress though activities such as dancing, walking, or biking. Do something that you enjoy.
  • Share what you are going through with friends and family. If you talk about your problems, you can help to relieve your stress and perhaps solve those problems.
  • Remember to keep your sense of humor. Laughing helps to reduce stress.
  • Join a support group. You can meet people with problems similar to yours and make new friends.
  • Seek out professional help in order to talk about what's troubling you.

There are additional strategies that you can use to help reduce stress in your life. Talk to your diabetes educator or doctor for more ideas.


What are symptoms of depression?

Too much stress sometimes can lead to depression. People with diabetes are more likely to be depressed than the average person. You may be at risk for depression if you have any of the following symptoms for more than a week:

  • Feeling sad or irritable
  • Having lost interest in activities you enjoy
  • Feeling worthless
  • Having a change in sleeping patterns
  • Feeling fatigued or like you have lost energy

Feelings of fatigue or feelings of worthlessness could make it harder to do self-care things that manage your diabetes. It is important to remember that doctors can help to treat depression. Call your doctor if any of these symptoms apply to you. Depression can be treated with lifestyle activities (like increased exercise and relaxation), medication and counseling.

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Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/03/2015.

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