Diabetes and stress | Diabetes Hub

Learn what stress does to your health, and how, if uncontrolled, it could lead to diabetes distress and even depression.

Emotional Well-Being

Diabetes and Stress


When stressed, your adrenal glands release 'stress hormones' (i.e., adrenaline and cortisol) into your bloodstream, resulting in increased blood sugar.

When blood sugar remains high, it makes diabetes control difficult.

Stress can also contribute to high blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and suppress the immune system.

Stress can cause mood changes and result in worries that affect sleep.

When not managed well, the impact of this stress can affect your personal, work and social functioning.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor, nurse or healthcare professional.


Signs of stress

Signs that stress may be out of control and further action is needed:

  • Worries and anxious thoughts
  • Irritability, frustration, anger
  • Low mood or depression
  • Changes in appetite (eating too much or not enough)
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Teeth grinding
  • Loss of memory, concentration and difficulties completing tasks
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Stomach discomfort (e.g., nausea, constipation, diarrhoea)
  • Headaches
  • Trembling
  • Profuse sweating

Diabetes distress

Diabetes distress is the emotional distress from living with diabetes and the difficulties faced with daily self-management.

Strong negative emotions from living with diabetes can happen with checking blood sugar, taking medication, keeping up with physical activity and eating healthy.

These feelings may be unique to you. Diabetes distress can be managed.

What can cause diabetes distress

  • Newly diagnosed diabetes
  • Not reaching target goals for managing diabetes
  • Loss of meaning of life, direction and focus in life
  • Start and persistence of long-term complications
  • Diabetes self-care expenses
  • Unclear goals or direction for diabetes care
  • Feeling disconnected, unheard or misunderstood by diabetes care providers
  • Lack of psychosocial-emotional support
  • Feeling burn out from the burden of living with diabetes

Diabetes and depression

Have you experienced or noticed changes in

  • Sleep
  • Interest
  • Guilt
  • Energy
  • Concentration
  • Appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Living with diabetes can be stressful, and limit your involvement in pleasurable activities.

Ongoing emotional struggles of coping with diabetes can include feeling you are constantly failing at managing your diabetes, feeling hopeless, fearing the long-term complications and feeling very alone.

Physical symptoms including fatigue, low energy, poor sleep, appetite and concentration.

Depressive symptoms impact self-care, reduce motivation in taking care of yourself, and can contribute to hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia.

Depression can be managed.

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