Blood Sugar and Mental Health

Some psychiatric doctors claim that they see a disproportional amount of clients with diabetes or hyperglycemia to those without.  Others claim that depression and diabetes work together to create a vicious cycle: diabetes can cause depression, which could cause blood glucose to heighten, thus creating worsening or uncontrolled diabetes that causes more anxiety and depression and so on.

According to Dr. Stephen IIardi in an article published in Psychology Today, sugar that accumulates in the blood notably suppresses a key growth hormone, BDNF, that contributes to the growth of neural connections in the brain.  BDNF has been linked to depression and schizophrenia, and both conditions can lead to brain damage over time.  IIardi also claims that research has linked low levels of BDNF to causing depression in lab animals.

Refined sugars trigger inflammation, which can also affect mental health, and in particular, increases risk for depression and schizophrenia.  Blood sugar wreaks havoc on the brain by creating a series of chemical reactions that leads to inflammation.  Chronic inflammation, a state most people are in due to the standard American diet, can lead to not only depression and schizophrenia, but also to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and some cancers.

Diabetes is also known to cause excess stress.  When attempting to manage blood sugar levels, anxiety may rise.  At the same time, failure to get blood sugar under control can leave a feeling of frustration, dejection, or hopelessness.  Someone suffering from sadness, anxiety, or frustration with the treatment process can begin to give up maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, which can create worsening moods and cause symptoms associated with high or low blood sugar.

Sometimes, symptoms of a blood sugar disorder can cause symptoms that act like a mental disorder, without truly being one.  For example, diabetes and hyperglycemia can cause chronic fatigue that could be attributed to depression rather than simply fatigue.  Diabetes can also cause mental breakdown, inability to concentrate and communicate effectively, loss of memory, and slow thought.  These symptoms may make someone worry about depression or another mental health problem, when maintenance of blood glucose levels can ameliorate the situation.

Getting treatment for depression, schizophrenia, or another mental health disturbance is important.  A physician can rule out a physical cause of the issue and refer the patient to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist.  The specialist will diagnose any conditions that are present and discuss a treatment plan.  Treatment for mental disorders that are accompanied by diabetes, hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia will begin with regulation of and regular testing of blood sugar levels.  Then, medications and behavioral therapy may be discussed to further treatment.

Diabetes can be a stressful disease for anyone to manage.  For people who may have existing mental conditions, the added stress of monitoring blood glucose levels along with other physiological disturbances can create a vicious cycle of depression which leads to heightened blood sugar levels, which deepens depression, and so on.  And so, properly identifying the root causes of one’s mental or emotional issues is especially important.  If you are experiencing the symptoms of blood sugar ilness along with other mental/emotional issues, be sure to seek help from appropriate physician teams.