If You’ve Lived with Diabetes for 5 Days or 50 Years, Managing Diabetes Is Hard
Managing diabetes takes a lot of work. It means monitoring your blood sugar, eating a balanced diet and staying active, and sticking to a medication schedule. It’s a never-ending responsibility that can often feel overwhelming. In addition to all the daily management tasks, there is an emotional aspect to diabetes that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves, even though it can have a big impact on your mood and overall mental well-being.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Depression
Did you know that people with diabetes are at a higher risk for depression than the general population? Why is that? One reason is that high blood sugar levels can actually alter your mood. Another reason is that the constant work of managing diabetes can create a lot of stress that affects how you feel.
However, depression is more than just feeling blue. It can make everyday tasks harder, it can take the joy away from things you used to love, and it can mess with the quality of your sleep.
When symptoms of depression kick in, it can throw your diabetes management off track. You might not check your blood sugar as often. You might eat more unhealthy foods. You might forget to take your insulin or other medications. In any of these situations, your blood sugars could start to creep up. And then what? You might start to feel even more down, making it harder to get back on track. It’s a tough cycle, but there are tools and strategies available to help address feelings of depression and improve your mood.
How to Reframe How You Think about Diabetes
One effective strategy involves challenging and reframing negative thoughts you may have about diabetes (and who doesn’t have negative thoughts about diabetes?). Here’s an exercise you can try to help reframe negative beliefs:
Step 1: Write Down Your Negative Thoughts
Note all the negative thoughts you associate with your diabetes, like, I can’t control my blood sugar, or Diabetes is ruining my life.
Step 2: Question Your Negative Thoughts
Reflect on each negative thought. Question its validity and the evidence behind it, and consider if there’s a more positive way to interpret it. For example, using the thought, I can’t control my blood sugar, ask yourself if this is true all the time or only some of the time. Are there times when you can manage your blood sugar?
Step 3: Reframe Your Thoughts
Change each negative thought into a more realistic statement. For instance, I can’t control my blood sugar becomes, I can manage my blood sugar with the right support and tools. Diabetes is ruining my life becomes Diabetes is challenging sometimes, but it doesn’t have to stop me from doing things I enjoy.
Step 4: Gather Evidence for Your New Thoughts
Jot down examples that support your new thoughts. This can come from your own experiences or those of others who manage their diabetes successfully. For example, evidence for the new thought, I can manage my blood sugar with the right support and tools might include how your diabetes management improved after you started using a continuous glucose monitor, or after you asked your family to support you with choosing healthier foods.
Step 5: Practice and Repeat
Read your new thoughts out loud every day, especially during challenging moments. This can help reinforce your capability and resilience in managing diabetes. Changing your mindset takes time and effort. Over the next week, try to practice this exercise daily and see what impact it has on your mood and mental health.
Other Self-Care and Treatment Options
Reframing negative thoughts is just one strategy that can be used to address an issue many people with diabetes face. But there are other ways to take care of your mental health, including seeking out professional help from a trained therapist.
Treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be effective in helping people with diabetes manage their mental health. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of therapy that helps you recognize negative thinking patterns, so you can view and respond to challenging situations in a more effective way.
In some cases and for some people, antidepressant medications may also be beneficial for a period of time, or longer term. Your healthcare provider can offer guidance and/or referrals for treatment options in this area.
And just because there is a relationship between diabetes and depression does not mean that you are going to experience symptoms of depression. Keeping open lines of communication with your healthcare provider about your emotional well-being is essential. They can advise when it might be appropriate to seek therapy or consider medication.
If you are looking for mental health support, here are some helpful resources:
- Center for Diabetes & Mental Health
- Behavioral Diabetes Institute
- ADA Mental Health Provider Directory
- Psychology Today
By combining self-help strategies with therapy and, if needed, medications, you can take control of your diabetes and your mental wellness. Know that you’re not alone in managing this condition, and there are many tools, trained professionals, and services available to help you if you need it.