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World Health Day 2016: Diabetes

The link between physical and mental health is very strong, regardless of what the illness is. If you have the flu, it is likely to make you feel down. If you rated your emotional mood it would be probably lower than usual. Therefore if you have a chronic condition with lots of implications on your physical health this will impact upon your mental health as well.

Thursday 7th April is World Health Day 2016, and this year’s focus is on diabetes. It is estimated that around 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, 90% of which have type 2 diabetes. While people are becoming more aware of diabetes as a health problem, it is not well-known that chronic conditions like this can have an impact on mental health in a number of ways.

The Impact of Diabetes on Mental Health

A diabetes diagnosis is life changing. People with diabetes have to manage and monitor their condition daily in order to maintain their health and avoid potentially life-threatening situations. While some people may accept the news that they are living with the condition quite well, it can be devastating for others. It is common for people to feel stressed, worried and afraid upon finding out that they have diabetes. They have to adjust to the long term nature of the condition and adapt to lifestyle changes that they aren’t used to and may not like. This can cause a lot of stress and provokes anxiety about what the future may hold.

After the initial shock of finding out that they have the condition, many people adjust well to managing their diabetes. But the longer term effects of living with diabetes can have a knock-on effect on a person’s mental health for a number of reasons.


Diabetes is a self-managed condition, which can put a lot of strain on the individual. Being responsible for taking care of yourself and your condition on a daily basis can be stressful, and many people worry that they may not be able to cope. Monitoring what to eat, how much insulin to take and when, whether to exercise, how to interpret a glucose reading and the other daily necessities of living with diabetes can be overwhelming and difficult to adjust to.


Having diabetes can result in a number of unpleasant emotions. When blood sugar levels peak and trough, a common side-effect is uncontrollable feelings of anger, sadness, frustration and hopelessness. It is very important to monitor blood sugar in order to reduce the frequency of these highs and lows, but it is also important to understand that you are only human. Experiencing a spectrum of emotions is normal, and may not always be related to your sugar levels.


The impact of diabetes on lifestyle and the added responsibilities can be challenging when it comes to relationships with family and friends. Negative emotions can put further strain on relationships, and it is not uncommon for people adjusting to a life with diabetes to feel alone and alienated by their condition. These feelings can be damaging to mental health.

On top of this, if you are feeling anxious and low, this can in turn, further impact upon your physical health. It can become a cycle. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help people normalise and validate this chain reaction. It can help people understand why they are experiencing unpleasant emotions and give them skills to manage symptoms effectively.

If you think the mental health of yourself or a loved one has been affected by diabetes or any chronic condition, Ieso’s discreet online therapy service may be able to help. Find out more about our therapy service, which is NHS approved and clinically validated.

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