Many people with diabetes also experience anxiety, and they may wonder whether there is a link between the two conditions.
A 2013 meta-analysis revealed that people with diabetes face a higher likelihood than the general population of experiencing anxiety.
In this article, we outline the reasons for this association. We also describe the symptoms of both diabetes and anxiety, as well as how healthcare professionals diagnose each of these conditions.
People with diabetes are responsible for managing their blood sugar levels and ensuring that these stay within a healthy range. This task can be challenging and stressful.
Doctors will ask people with diabetes to remain mindful of their blood sugar levels and to engage in routine behaviors, such as:
Planning, checking, and being prepared for a wide range of challenges are all important for effective diabetes management. However, some people may worry excessively about their blood sugar levels or how their disease may progress. These concerns may trigger episodes of anxiety.
According to the National Library of Medicine, anxiety is “excessive worry or fear at real or imagined situations.”
The emotional challenges of living with diabetes can also trigger anxiety.
People with diabetes are at risk of developing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are identical to those of anxiety.
Additionally, the results of a 2015 animal study suggest that experiencing several episodes of hypoglycemia can increase the likelihood of anxiety. The reason for this may be that hypoglycemic episodes trigger chemical and metabolic changes that physically affect the part of the brain that plays a role in processing anxiety.
The procedures that healthcare professionals use to diagnose diabetes and anxiety are quite different.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors diagnose diabetes using one or more of the following blood tests:
A person should see their doctor if they think that they have anxiety. The doctor may ask the person to fill in a questionnaire that asks about their psychological and physical symptoms.
In some cases, a doctor may refer the person for a mental health screening with a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. These mental health professionals will be able to carry out a more detailed assessment.
People with diabetes and anxiety must learn to distinguish between rational concerns over diabetes management and irrational, anxious thinking.
The first step in this process is to work closely with healthcare professionals to develop a diabetes treatment plan. This plan should include information on the following:
For people with anxiety, many different treatment options are available. A doctor or mental health professional may recommend one or more of the following approaches:
The combination of diabetes and anxiety can create a vicious cycle of physical and emotional problems. However, people who learn to manage their anxiety may find themselves better able to manage their diabetes.
Certain lifestyle practices can be beneficial for people with diabetes, anxiety, or both. These include:
Diabetes and anxiety are two serious yet common conditions, which can share some of the same symptoms.
People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing anxiety because they may experience excessive fear and worry about the management and possible progression of diabetes. Concerns over the physical symptoms themselves can also trigger anxiety.
Anxiety can, in turn, interfere with a person’s ability to manage their blood sugar levels. Due to this, a person who has diabetes should see their doctor if they begin to experience symptoms of anxiety.
Many treatment options are available to help people deal with the symptoms of diabetes and anxiety. Certain lifestyle changes may also help with the management of both conditions.