Life is full of stressful situations, and their impacts on mental health are increasingly known and addressed. Managing type 1 diabetes (T1D) imposes a significant burden on daily life and involves a big learning curve for the majority of individuals newly diagnosed with T1D. It requires major life changes, and it puts those who live with T1D and their loved ones to a higher risk of mental health issues. Managing T1D means constantly being in a state of alert, which is stressful and exhausting.
Children with T1D
Recent studies found that children and teenagers with T1D generally show more anxious and depressive symptoms than other children and teenagers. Studies conducted in Sweden and Denmark observed that the risk of developing mental health issues is twice as high for teenagers and young adults with T1D than for their peers.
When you have T1D, you have to think about everything you eat—and its required insulin dose—at least three times a day. This could explain why eating disorders are so frequent: close to 40% of teenagers with T1D have problematic eating behaviours, such as skipping meals or insulin doses, using extreme weight-loss strategies, ignoring feelings of hunger or satiety, etc.
Adults with T1D are also more likely to show anxious and depressive symptoms. Almost one out of every three people with T1D will experience diabetes burnout at some point in their lives.
The constant monitoring of blood sugar levels, and especially hypoglycemia, affects the daily life, work performance, and mental and emotional health of people with T1D, not to mention the heavy burden of the fear of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia-related complications.
Mental health self-care
The first step in taking care of your mental health is keeping yourself informed and realizing that living with T1D can add significant stress to your life.
Generally, people with T1D should follow the same physical and mental health self-care recommendations as the general population.
- Stay informed about and practice healthy eating, but leave some room for treats every once in a while.
- Go to bed and wake up at regular hours. Adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours every night.
- Do physical activity on a regular basis and aim for an ideal target of 150 minutes per week.
- Do relaxation activities, such as abdominal breathing and yoga.
- Seek social support (family, friends) and medical support (discuss stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, etc. during appointments) when going through tough times.
Don’t hesitate to discuss your mental health with your healthcare team if needed. It might be necessary, although difficult, to interrupt the regular flow of an appointment and seek help for a mental health issue. If needed, you can also consider getting help from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Do you need to talk to someone?
Call the Écoute, Entraide line at 514-278-2130 (Montreal area) or 1-855-365-4463 (toll-free)
The BETTER registry aims to paint a picture of the T1D population in Quebec.
Not registered yet? Come and visit us at www.type1better.com.
- Duinkerken, E., Snoek, F. J., & Wit, M. (2019). The Cognitive and Psychological Effects of Living With Type 1 Diabetes: A Narrative Review. Diabetic Medicine, 37(4), pp. 555–563. doi: 10.1111/dme.14216