Diabetes and Mood Swings – Everything You Need to Know
Depression is a mood disorder that affects 25% of people with diabetes. Unsurprisingly, those with diabetes are more likely to experience blood sugar fluctuations. As such, it appears there is a definitive link between diabetes and mood swings. The evidence also suggests that blood glucose variations, like blood sugar dips and spikes, affect your mood differently.
Of course, people with diabetes aren’t the only ones suffering from this chronic condition. Comorbid depression goes hand in hand with emotion-based stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, and other health issues that could cause psychological reasons for mood swings apart from blood sugar levels.
In this article, we explore the link between diabetes and mood swings and examine the impact blood glucose levels play. We also offer diabetes management advice to reduce the instances of mood swings.
What the Evidence Tells Us About Diabetes and Mood Swings
Several studies demonstrate a link between diabetes and mood swings. For example, a 2012 study discovered that unstable blood sugar levels are associated with anxiety, anger, and low quality of life in women with diabetes.
This link was established long before 2012. In a 1989 study, researchers examined the effects of glycemic variability. They found that those who experience blood sugar dips are more prone to nervousness. However, a blood sugar spike also led to more sadness and anger.
These effects aren’t limited to those with diabetes. A 2017 prospective study examined the link between increased sugar intake and common mental health conditions like depression. The evidence demonstrates a clear link between diabetes and mental health challenges that could include higher stress levels and even self-harm. Blood sugar fluctuations appear to have different effects on an individual’s quality of life. While mood swings are a challenge regardless of whether you have low or high blood sugar, the nature of those mood swings varies.
The Effects of Diabetes on Mood
To understand the effects of diabetes on mood, we first need to know how the condition affects the body. Diabetes impairs your body’s ability to use blood glucose correctly. As such, those with diabetes must manage the condition to reduce glucose variability. The good news is that diabetes technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Maintaining glycemic control in the body has become easier, and a well-managed program and better knowledge of the insulin-glucose process can reduce stress for people with diabetes and those who care for them.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the target blood glucose ranges are:
- 180ml/dL or less a few hours after you eat a meal
- 80–130ml/dL before you eat
These are approximate ranges, meaning your ideal range may vary. But if you can stay within these ranges, you have a better chance of avoiding the following mood issues:
It’s tough and stressful to manage diabetes. You may have to deal with constantly monitoring your blood sugar levels, educating people, and creating meal plans. It can all start to feel overwhelming, leading to a stress response. This stress response, known as “diabetes distress,” affects 20% of people with insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes and about 17% of those with non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes.
- Anger, frustration, and stress
- Low motivation levels
- Consistent worrying about your condition
- A tendency to make unhealthy choices
- Feelings of isolation
While diabetes distress doesn’t directly relate to your blood sugar, it does have an indirect link. Negative moods occur because of the need to stick to a diabetes management plan, which includes glycemic control. Think of diabetes distress as a sort of diabetes burnout to develop a stronger idea of what the condition entails.
Rapid mood shifts
Evidence suggests that there’s a relationship between blood sugar levels and mood. Losing track when managing your blood sugar levels can lead to various mood-related effects. The specific effects vary depending on what’s happening with your blood sugar. Those with low blood sugar are more likely to experience the following types of mood swings:
- Issues with concentration
- Behavioral changes
Having high blood sugar appears to have a less direct effect on your mood. However, it causes other issues that can lead to mood swings, such as:
- Feeling fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty seeing
- Unwell feelings
Simply put, failing to keep your blood sugar within a healthy range affects your well-being. In some cases, this directly leads to mood swings. In others, it results in symptoms that significantly impact your mental health, leading to more negative moods.
Anxiety is a common mood disorder that is particularly prevalent in diabetes patients. According to one study that looked at people with diabetes in 15 countries, 18% of those with type 2 diabetes also have an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms vary depending on the severity of this mental health condition. However, common symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Persistent worrying
- Panic attacks
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, 25% of people with diabetes experience some form of depression. Often, this depression has a direct link to diabetes distress. The burden of managing the condition feels so overwhelming that some find it emotionally draining to the point where their mood slumps consistently.
There are several challenges associated with detecting depression in people with diabetes. Depression is a variable mental health condition, meaning the symptoms vary from person to person. Furthermore, lifestyle factors influence the condition. Those under chronic stress may develop major depression faster than those with relatively lower stress levels.
It’s crucial that diabetes patients have a healthcare team supporting them in looking for the following symptoms:
- Sleep pattern changes
- Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
- Appetite changes
- Low energy
- Feelings of guilt or nervousness
- Issues with concentrating
- Suicidal ideology and self-harm – support should be sought at the very first sign of this symptom
The people you live with often feel as responsible for your diabetes care as you do. When glycemic variability impacts mood, you risk placing a strain on a relationship. The challenges you experience in your relationship can damage your support structure, creating more stress.
Spousal influence also plays a role in glycemic variability, as demonstrated by a 2020 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine journal. It found that positive spousal influence was associated with less diabetes distress, making unstable blood sugar levels less likely. However, those experiencing a combination of distress and low-quality relationships were more likely to have mood swings. Simply put, being in a happy relationship improves your mood.
Some evidence suggests that the effects of diabetes on relationships extend beyond mood disorders. Diabetes impacts a person’s sex life, leading to issues including erectile dysfunction, lowered sex drive, and vaginal dryness. While not directly associated with mood, such issues often have psychological causes rather than physical ones.
Advice for Coping With Diabetes and Mood Swings
Self-care often lies at the heart of resolving the issues caused by diabetes and mood swings. With the following strategies, you can improve your overall well-being and make the lifestyle changes needed to reduce mood swings.
Follow your diabetes management plan
Though diabetes care can feel overwhelming, you’ve likely worked with a diabetes educator to create a plan of action.
Following that plan is a crucial strategy for overcoming the mood swings many people with diabetes experience. Your plan may include changes in lifestyle, daily medications, and scheduling for blood glucose screenings. The closer you stick to the plan you develop with your healthcare provider, the less likely you are to experience the glucose fluctuations that often cause diabetes-induced mood swings.
Check your blood sugar consistently
Your treatment plan likely includes recommended blood sugar ranges before and after your meals. Keeping track of those ranges ensures your body experiences fewer glucose-related issues that can lead to mood changes.
Watch for readings that are outside your recommended range. Record any readings that seem strange and discuss them with your doctor. While everybody overindulges or loses track occasionally, allowing either to happen consistently places you at greater risk of mood swings.
As for regulating your blood glucose, try the following to help you keep track of your meals:
- Create a meal plan designed to be as diabetes-friendly as possible. This strategy may involve creating specific shopping lists and preparing the food you eat well in advance.
- Automate your diabetes plan as much as possible. For example, you may set alerts on your smartphone to remind you of when to eat and when you need to check your blood sugar.
- Educate those around you, so they understand why you take your meals so seriously. Through education, your friends and family can become sources of support rather than hindrances.
- Increase your intake of protein and fiber. Both have low glycemic indexes, especially when compared to processed foods. Try to eat fresh food as opposed to processed food as often as possible while tracking the sugar and carbohydrate levels in your food. If you can go sugar-free, then even better. For example, try switching out traditional desserts for some tasty sugar-free options.
Speak to others
Seek the help of others whenever you start experiencing anxiety related to your condition. Those who try to go at it alone often experience a lower quality of life because they don’t have the support they need to combat diabetes distress. That lack of support also creates an environment that makes managing diabetes more challenging, increasing the likelihood of mood swings.
Confront the Issue of Diabetes and Mood Swings Directly
The key to overcoming mood swings related to diabetes is to confront the challenges you face at their source. In many cases, mood issues occur due to blood sugar variability. By taking firmer control of your sugar intake, you’re more likely to avoid the mood disorders associated with diabetes.
Having the ability to recognize the signs of mood issues also helps. The more you know about the outward symptoms of mood disorders, the more likely you are to realize the need to focus more on self-care.
Finally, take steps that help you start managing your condition more effectively. Downloading the Klinio app may be one of those steps. Our trustworthy meal app helps those with diabetes track their sugar intake and maintain a plan that ensures they’re less likely to experience mood swings as a result of diabetes.