Did you know diabetes affects your mental health? From depression to relationship problems or mood swings, too much or too little glucose (sugar) circulating in the blood can trigger behavior and thought patterns that may seem unrelated to how much insulin is released by your pancreas. Out of control glucose levels influence how you feel and make decisions, your beliefs and, yes, your attitude, a very necessary component of your overall care.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states less than half the number of people with diabetes who have depression get treated, which leads to worsening states of mind that could include suicidal thoughts. Treatment, however — therapy, medicine, or both — is usually very effective in this group. That’s good news because diabetics are two to three times as likely to have depression that people without diabetes, and when one condition improves, the other is likely to improve, too.
My roundup of the top five crossover issues affecting mental health include the following.
- Physical illnesses of all kinds can affect your mental health and behavior (and vice versa) like diabetes does because the human body works with integrated symptoms of vast complexity. You cannot make changes to one network without causing changes to the rest. Complications can range from additional stress and anxiety to reduced chances for healing or, as with diabetes, heart disease, amputations, nerve damage, or death. Cancer centers often integrate the concepts of wholeness and multidisciplinary teams of experts in scientific treatments, and mental health professionals use coping techniques that include biofeedback, meditation, soothing music and more. Treating only the symptoms or even the root cause of a disease should be partnered with a whole-body plan to help you handle every issue you might encounter.
- Medications, of course, can have side effects, whether they are prescribed or bought over the counter. Reading the lists of every possible problem is daunting, but talking seriously with your doctor about the most likely ones and how to deal with them can help you make informed decisions. Other medication choices could be available, and alternative treatments might help. Make sure your doctor is aware of anything you take that did not require a prescription as drug interactions can occur. The important thing is to work with your doctor or doctors to make sure you get the best treatment possible with the least negative effect. If a medication is known to be associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts, addressing this fact helps you evaluate your course of treatment and plan how you will handle such problems. A good pharmacist can help with general questions, but always notify your doctor of any changes.
- Available care might come with issues of its own. Where you live, costs, how easy your medical professionals are to work with, as well as local support options, affect your choices and can add to your worry and frustration or help your treatment work better. Stress damages the body in ways that complicate treatment, especially if it goes on long-term. One thing is certain, however. Staying calm and learning about your condition aids both you and your doctor in designing recovery or management strategies.
- Harmful substances may seem to help you feel better or to improve your life initially, but illegal drugs and alcohol do far more damage than you might think. Other substances we use everyday can have chemical effects that are harmful to the brain, depending on dosage and how they are handled; these can be found in beauty products, toothpaste, pesticides, foods, and more. Consumers can check products for safety with the plethora of information available online.
- Survival requirements dictate the use of common sense in most cases. Glucose, for example, cannot be eliminated totally from the diet. The body needs some (complex) carbohydrates, and your liver manufactures sugar as an important energy source. It is possible to minimize the effects of stress, but impossible to eliminate it from your life. Even positive stress has an effect. And the earth is home to all of us. What other people do will continue to affect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.
Far from being a hopeless situation, all this can be managed. There are many things you can do to improve your health by treating the systems that make up your wonderful body as partners in your care. Like the car you drive or the computer you use, consistent care will reward you with longevity and better quality of life. Take one issue at a time to avoid overwhelm and manage what you cannot change the best way you can. Remember, how you approach a problem is important to success.