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Stress, Depression, and Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Key points

  1. Diabetes is a chronic illness that can usually be managed with lifestyle changes and medications.
  2. It is normal for people with diabetes to feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
  3. If these feelings persist, they can lead to depression. Depression is treatable, especially when you begin treatment early on.

Diabetes is a lifelong chronic illness that comes with ups and downs. It’s normal for people with diabetes to have feelings of frustration as they try to manage their condition. Ongoing stress and depression may require medical treatment to prevent further consequences.

It’s important to address these issues and realize that you aren’t alone. Your doctor can help you find ways to manage stress, depression, and diabetes to achieve a better quality of life.

Stress and diabetes

Occasional stress is normal and a part of everyone’s life. You’re bound to experience stress if you have a lot on your plate at work or in your personal life. There may also be a link between stress and your daily diabetes care. Managing blood glucose and other aspects of diabetes can be time-consuming and stressful. Stress can make you:

  • feel anxious, moody, or nervous
  • experience upset stomach or diarrhea
  • breathe faster
  • have an increased heart rate

Chronic stress makes everyday life less enjoyable. It can also make diabetes more difficult to manage. You may experience an increase in blood pressure, as well as high blood sugar levels. This rise in blood sugar is called hyperglycemia.

Lifestyle changes can help alleviate stress and prevent it from taking over your life. Regular deep breathing exercises, like in yoga or meditation, can help you relax. Mastering such techniques can also make it easier for you to cope in stressful situations.

You can manage stress effectively by taking regular time for yourself. A diabetes support group can also decrease stress by creating an outlet for sharing your experiences with others who understand what you’re going through. Severe cases of stress may be treated with antianxiety medications.

Identifying depression

Depression can occur at any stage of diabetes, and people with diabetes are at greater risk of depression. Depression often follows stress. Symptoms of depression may include:

  • persistent sadness
  • excessive fatigue
  • a need to sleep during the day
  • overall lack of energy
  • irritability
  • body pain
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • loss of interest in normal activities

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, you may have depression if you experience these symptoms for two weeks or longer. Most people with diabetes won’t experience depression. Still, diabetes puts you at a greater risk. There are reasons for this increased risk, including:

  • pain from diabetic nerve damage
  • disrupted lifestyle from diabetes management
  • feelings of being alone because of the disease
  • family history of mental illness
  • thyroid problems

Depression is a clinical disorder that is best treated by mental health professionals. Depression puts you at higher risk for poor health outcomes with diabetes. Your doctor might recommend antidepressants or psychotherapy along with your diabetes treatment plan. Careful blood sugar monitoring is even more important if you take an antidepressant. For best results, you might consider seeing a mental health professional who also specializes in treating patients with diabetes. Treating depression early on is crucial to recovery. The better you manage your emotional health, the better you can manage diabetes.


Ongoing stress and anxiety can lead to major health issues. Unmanaged stress can cause:

  • insomnia and sleep deprivation
  • anxiety
  • weight gain
  • cardiovascular disease
  • depression

In the long term, depression can lead to severe problems, including:

  • alcoholism
  • drug abuse
  • anxiety
  • suicide

More than blood sugar management

You may feel hopeless and overwhelmed when you are diagnosed with diabetes. You may think that managing diabetes is impossible. The truth is that it takes work and dedication, just as much as a healthy lifestyle does. The effort is well worth it. You may even find that your emotional health improves as you adopt healthier lifestyle habits. Good nutrition and regular exercise alone are mood boosters that can also be effective for managing diabetes.


Diabetes is a lifelong chronic condition that often changes your life. Especially when newly diagnosed, you may feel stressed and overwhelmed. If these feelings persist, they can lead to depression. If you experience symptoms of depression, be sure to contact your doctor to discuss your concerns and seek treatment. Diabetes is a manageable condition. There are many healthcare providers, resources, and support groups that can help you.

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