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Diabetes and Emotional Well-Being

Diabetes does not only impact on people physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

Did you know?

  • Almost one in five Australian adults will be affected by mental illness each year.
  • The risk of depression is doubled in people with diabetes.
  • Teenagers and the elderly with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing depression.

Emotional well-being is an essential part of living a healthy life and managing diabetes.

The everyday demands of managing diabetes can impact on a person's emotional well-being, which may lead to diabetes related distress, diabetes burnout or depression.

How can diabetes affect emotional well-being?

Diabetes related distress refers to the emotional burdens and worries that arise from managing diabetes. Areas that people with diabetes have identified as possibly contributing to diabetes related distress include:

  • worrying about complications,
  • feeling anxious and guilty when diabetes management is sub-optimal,
  • being unsure if moods or feelings are related to diabetes,
  • feeling constantly stressed about food and eating,
  • constant concern over potential hypoglycaemia.

Diabetes burnout develops when a person grows tired of managing the everyday demands of diabetes which may lead to an individual ignoring or neglecting day to day diabetes management.

Depression is a serious and chronic condition that affects a person's physical and mental health, resulting in an inability to enjoy and carry out usual daily activities.

Click here to view the fact sheet Depression and Diabetes. Be informed on signs and symptoms of depression and the relationship between diabetes and depression.

Stress is experienced by all at some stage, and we all react in different ways. It is important to recognise that stress can have a direct effect on blood glucose levels, which may cause them to rise. This is due to the release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. The potential impact of stress depends on the individual as everyone deals with stress in different ways. To find out more, view the Managing Stress and Diabetes fact sheet.

What can I do?

Whether newly diagnosed with diabetes or diagnosed for some time, it's important to evaluate your emotional and mental well-being.

Check your emotional health today

The good news! There is information and help to assist you at any stage in your journey.

The following dot points can help you work towards better emotional well-being:

  • Knowledge is power! Learning about diabetes and how to effectively manage it may increase your confidence and reduce some stress associated with managing diabetes.
  • Understand that one size does not fit all with diabetes. Each person will have individual targets and goals tailored to their needs.
  • Don't think of blood glucose levels as 'good' or 'bad'. Use blood glucose results as a tool to help you make decisions about your diabetes management.
  • Talk to supportive family members or friends particularly when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Seek peer support from organised support groups, social activities, group education sessions and online forums. Sharing experiences with others who have similar experiences may be helpful.
  • Exercise can improve your physical and emotional health. Find an exercise you enjoy and make it part of your everyday routine.
  • Participate in relaxation techniques such as meditation, listening to music, yoga, tai chi, or gardening. This may help to reduce stress.
  • Identify any areas of diabetes self-management that you find challenging (e.g. blood glucose monitoring). Discuss these issues with your health professional.
  • Set small, achievable and realistic goals to overcome any barriers to self-management.
  • A healthy diet can also assist with emotional well-being and the management of diabetes. It is recommended to regularly include wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy and lean meats. Foods that do not fit into these groups are recommended on occasion.
  • Do not feel guilty if blood glucose levels are out of your target range. Many factors impact on blood glucose levels and some of these are out of your control. Use your knowledge and experience to determine what has impacted on your blood glucose levels and implement strategies to deal with this.
  • Find a health professional that you can work effectively with.
  • Have realistic expectations about your diabetes care.

Where to get help

Emotional health helplines and services

  • Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24 hours 7 days a week)
  • Mental Illness Fellowship of South Australia: (08) 8378 4100
  • Drugs and Alcohol Services: 1300 131 340
  • ACIS (Assessment Crisis Intervention Service): 13 14 65
  • South Australian Mental Health Services: 8303-1111

For young people under 18 years - Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)

  • CAMHS Eastern Region (Paradise): 8207 8999
  • CAMHS Western Region (Port Adelaide): 8341 1222
  • CAMHS Northern Region (Elizabeth): 8252 0133
  • CAMHS Southern Region (Flinders Service, Bedford Park): 8204 5412
  • CAMHS Southern Region (Marion, Oaklands Park): 87425 8600
  • Onkaparinga Regional Service (Morphett Vale): 8326 1234

Useful websites

Mental health and well-being

Body image

Diabetes and health for kids and teens