Diabetes causes a host of problematic side effects within the body. Each nastier than the next. And as if it weren’t enough that Diabetes messes with your physiology, it also causes a host of problems with your mood. That’s right, Diabetes can have you acting like an ogre with a thorn in your foot in no time. This mostly happens when your blood sugar levels are uncontrolled, but there can be other reasons as well.
Outside of the issue of blood sugar control, Diabetes can cause changes in mood for a variety of reasons. Some of the most important reasons involve the stress and anxiety associated with having Diabetes. Let’s be real: even if you keep a tight control of your condition, it’s still going to potentially cause debilitating side effects including loss of vision, organ failure and possibly shorten your life expectancy by a number of years. Having all of that on one’s mind while trying to eat properly and manage blood sugar levels isn’t as easy as it sounds and can often have emotional impacts that affect the people around you, as well.
I certainly remember that during my teens, when one’s body is going through significant change and hormones are already running rampant, I was a bit of a nightmare to deal with. My blood sugars lacked the control I have now, and mood fluctuations were the norm. My parents often attributed this to simply being a moody teenager and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t have SOMETHING to do with it. But some of it also had much to do with the effects of extreme highs and lows.
I remember on one occasion, when I was in the basement of the girl I was dating along with several other friends. It had been a pretty lazy day and I hadn’t done much, physically. The evening started out fine, but within the span of an hour I started to feel resentful of the people around me and cranky at how noisy everyone was being. I sat in a lounger and started watching a show on the television by myself. My then girlfriend approached me to ask what was going on and I remember snapping at her and telling her to leave me alone because I was trying to watch tv. She had done nothing to deserve this reaction and the situation certainly didn’t call for it.
I probably seemed like a real bastard, and I was. I remember the event in question but more importantly, I remember being unable to regulate my reaction to others. It’s a little like being a mean drunk; they always regret it the next morning and are often apologetic, despite the damage already being done. I know that throughout my younger years, I damaged and even lost many relationships as a result of those mood swings. Some occasions where I treated my parents like absolute shit also come to mind. Can I blame it solely on Diabetes? Perhaps in some cases, but much like the apologetic alcoholic, one eventually needs to take ownership and do something more than simply apologize.
As explained in a post on HealthLine.com, “Feeling a range of highs and lows is not uncommon if you have Diabetes. Your blood sugar impacts how you feel and can contribute to mood swings. Poor management of blood glucose can lead to negative foods and contribute to a lower quality of life.” Accurate. The article goes on to provide some of the mood-based effects that low or high blood sugars can cause. Irritability is listed for lows and anger is listed for highs, but I’ve seen those easily happen for either end of the blood sugar scale.
The truth is, blood sugar extremes will actually inhibit your brain’s ability to manage those emotions and feelings of aggression and/or anger. In some cases (depending on the person) those feelings can become dangerous as they can lead to self-harm or harm to others. This can be difficult and dangerous for immediate family as there’s really only so much one can do to navigate those rough waters and you can’t force a person to take control of their condition; it’s ultimately up to them to manage their blood sugar levels properly.
Next on the list is alcohol. Aah, alcohol… the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems! I’m not serious, that’s a Homer Simpson quote. But on the serious side, let’s call alcohol what it is: a depressant. A rather effective and powerful one. In my experience, when people consume alcohol, they ultimately fall under two categories: calm and chill or emotional. And to be clear, I’m not referring to having the occasional glass of wine while writing a blog post (cough, cough) or grabbing a beer with friends. I mean getting plastered drunk.
If you’re the calm and chill type, that’s all well and good. I fall under that category. On the few occasions where I can say I’ve actually consumed enough to be drunk, I usually prefer to stay in one spot, either watching a movie, reading a book or being annoyingly chatty as my French side rears it ugly head. Once I start chatting on, there’s no stopping me. But being an emotional drunk can mean a lot of things. You can be all about the love; the huggy, loving type who has nothing but good feelings for everyone around you. You can be the weepy type who suddenly pours out all their grief or the angry type who suddenly vents all their rage.
Although there’s nothing wrong with having a good cry on occasion, venting out all your emotions, especially when on the influence of alcohol, can be damaging to you, your family and friends. Now, add blood sugar control into that equation and you’ve got a serious nightmare. As I’ve written on previous occasions, alcohol can have serious effects on one’s blood sugar levels. Most alcoholic drinks will contain some levels of carbohydrates, which can lead to highs if they aren’t compensated for. On the other hand, consumption of alcohol can keep your liver quite busy, resulting in extreme lows due to the lack of glycogen release in the system. It quite honestly differs depending on the person, their specific body chemistry and blood sugar control.
Since Diabetes can affect one’s mood and alcohol can affect one’s mood, it can be pretty easy to see how combining the two without adequate moderation and blood sugar control can be an issue. The same can be said of recreational and/or prescription drugs, smoking and bad diet. It can all play a role in what kind of asshole you turn into when your blood sugar levels are wonky. That’s why moderation and proper blood sugar checking and control are critically important. Except the recreational drugs. Stay away from that shit altogether. Jus’ saying’…
If you’re a family member or loved one, it can be important to bear all of this in mind if your T1D happens to be a cranky bitch on a given day. If you ARE a T1D, test your blood sugar frequently and bear this in mind if you’re actually feeling moody. Should you be blaming all your moodiness on Diabetes. Not really, but it can be a consideration. And for the love of all that’s good and Holy, don’t even ACCUSE someone of being cranky because of their Diabetes, whether it’s the cause or not. Ever try to tell an angry spouse to calm down or blamed their mood on a “monthly visitor?” How’d THAT work out for you?
This falls under that same category. Although communication is important and bad Diabetes control should be addressed, especially if it’s causing problems, the last thing you want to do with someone who has aggression that can’t be biologically controlled is be accusatory. “You seem in a bad mood… Is your blood sugar high or something?” Not only will that only serve to further aggravate the situation, it can be a slap in the face to someone who is genuinely feeling their emotions for a reason outside of their condition.
This is where I usually close up by explaining to test your blood sugars often, do everything in moderation and to include diet, exercise and meditation in your daily routine. Honestly, Diabetes control doesn’t have to be HARD, although it can often be COMPLICATED. As if dealing with the physical aspects of Diabetes wasn’t enough, there’s also the psychological and mental health component to bear in mind. if any of this rings true for any of you, take the time to question your doctor or medical practitioner and seek help if feelings of aggression or depression begin to affect your life, despite blood sugar levels. It can be indicative of a bigger problem. And there’s never any shame in asking for help. ☯