Anxiety and Diabetes

July 01, 2018 by

“Have you ever thought about the connection between anxiety and diabetes?Studies show that people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression.” Kepha Nyanumba- Consultant Nutritionist.
 Many of us worry from time to time. We fret over finances, feel anxious about job interviews, or get nervous about social gatherings. Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or fear which is our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. Our systems are designed to keep us safe and to respond to danger in a way that prepares us to either stand our ground (fight) or to get us away from danger to a safe place (flight).  These responses are instinctive and an important part of our make-up. When we find ourselves in a place where we are in danger, these physical and psychological reactions give us the additional strength and clarity of focus needed to get us away from danger. In this way, anxiety can be a helpful, protective response.  Sometimes, most of us won’t often find ourselves in life threatening danger, however, anxiety may still be part of our day to day experience. Sometimes we are very aware of what’s causing the feelings of anxiety, for example when getting ready for an exam, speaking in public, or when responding to conflict at work or home. At other times, we find ourselves feeling anxious without really knowing the cause. The anxiety can feel overwhelming, resulting in feelings of extreme fear, panic and tearfulness and bringing with it physical symptoms such as lack of sleep, muscle tension and chronic pain. 
The Connection Between Anxiety and Diabetes
Have you ever thought about the connection between anxiety and diabetes? Studies show that people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It is estimated that 14% of people with diabetes have generalized anxiety disorder. As many as 40% of people have at least some anxiety symptoms, and fear of hypoglycemia is not uncommon in those with diabetes. Anxiety disorders in people with type 1 and 2 diabetes are associated with poor blood sugar control. This happens because emotional stress such as anxiety causes the body to secrete stress hormones into the bloodstream. For those without diabetes, the stress-induced blood sugar rise is followed by an increase in insulin secretion, so the blood sugar rise is modest and temporary. For those of us with diabetes, however, insulin is not always able to let the extra energy into the cells, so glucose piles up in the blood.  This leads to a significant and prolonged increase in the blood sugar level.
Being diagnosed with diabetes can instigate anxiety in a number of ways. People with diabetes may potentially be anxious about how their condition will be perceived by others including friends, family and work colleagues. One of the most common types of anxiety disorder is social phobia. It affects both women and men equally. People with social phobia may worry for days or weeks before a social event. They’re often embarrassed, self-conscious, and afraid of being judged. Other common types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. People with generalized anxiety disorder worry endlessly over everyday issues like health, money, or family problems even if they realize there’s little cause for concern. They startle easily, can’t relax, and can’t concentrate. They find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sleep deprivation alters the sympathetic nervous system and hormonal balances, all of which affects glucose regulation. Symptoms of generalized anxiety often get worse during times of stress. Do you ever feel like your calendar is running you instead of the other way around? Ever get agitated due to too many competing priorities and super-tight deadlines but not enough time? Do you have restless nights thinking about your blood glucose levels and complications of diabetes? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you are living with stress.

The Reality about Fighting Anxiety
When fighting anxiety, the problem arises when we begin to be afraid of our anxiety response. This fear makes the anxiety mechanism turn on itself. When we are afraid of being anxious, we create more anxiety. Panic seems to only strike when we do not want it to, and never seems to hit when we allow it to. In other words, all efforts to control or avoid anxiety only seem to make it worse. Debilitating anxiety is actually a reflection of the efforts we make to resist it. When fighting anxiety, the first thing is to simply accept that you feel anxious and try to find out the root cause instead of fighting the feeling. Reassuring yourself, or having someone else speak reassuringly to you, can help soothe the part of you that’s been activated and give you space to think. There are several foods that may reduce your anxiety symptoms. Enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C may help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders and lead to an improved sense of well-being.
Kepha Nyanumba (Consultant Nutritionist), Tel: +254 (0) 723 103 028 / 732 234 161,   Email:  / me on twitter: @knyanumba or  Blog:


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