Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer.
Stephanie Hartselle, MD, is a board-certified pediatric and adult psychiatrist and Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Living with and managing diabetes is often very stressful. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of developing mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more. Additionally, the physical changes experienced by diabetics—such as hypoglycemic episodes—can affect a person’s mental well-being.
In this article, learn how you can manage or prevent the mental health issues associated with diabetes.

Mental health issues are more common among people who have diabetes than in the general public. Likewise, diabetes is more commonly diagnosed among people with psychiatric disorders than among the general public. In short, the relationship between diabetes and mental health disorders is bi-directional (one affects the other).
It can be hard to manage the injections, appointments, diet, and other lifestyle changes that a diabetes diagnosis requires. Fear of a low blood sugar event, medication access, and blood sugar changes can affect mental health.
Additionally, having diabetes and a mental health diagnosis can negatively affect your outcomes with both conditions. It makes sense that having mental health issues may affect your ability to cope with and manage your diabetes and vice versa.
It can be stressful to help manage a child's diabetes or support a loved one through diabetes management. Just like the person with diabetes, family members may also feel mental health strain or burnout related to this condition. Talk to a trusted healthcare provider about mental health support if this sounds like you.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have depression than people who do not have diabetes. Unfortunately, only 25–50% of these cases get diagnosed and treated.
Symptoms of depression include:
In general, you may be at increased risk for developing depression if you have a family history of depression, are going through a significant life change, or are enduring trauma or stress. Diabetes requires substantial lifestyle changes, and management can be stressful, which may contribute to depression.
Among people with diabetes, other risk factors for depression include:
People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have higher rates of anxiety. However, research has also found that anxiety disorders may increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes.
Additionally, low blood sugar episodes can feel a lot like anxiety. Even when someone with diabetes has normal blood sugar levels, they may be worried about their blood sugar spiking or dipping.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
Diabetes and anxiety are each risk factors for developing the other. One study also found that people with diabetes who had anxiety were more likely to be women, and incidence of this decreased with age. Another study found that those with diabetes and anxiety were more likely also to have depression, higher hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c/blood sugar levels) and body mass index (BMI), and macrovascular complications (complications of the large blood vessels).
Certain eating disorders are also more common among people with diabetes than those without it.
One recent study found that 21% of people with binge eating disorder (BED) also have type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
People with type 1 diabetes are also at higher risk of developing eating disorders. About 7% of teenagers with type 1 diabetes may have an eating disorder. This combination is sometimes called diabulimia, which refers to when a person with type 1 diabetes purposefully does not take their insulin in an effort to lose weight.
Most diabetes and mental health research have historically focused on anxiety and depression. However, a recent 2022 study on type 2 diabetes among people with psychiatric disorders shed light on the prevalence of other mental health conditions.
The research found that the prevalence of diabetes among certain psychiatric disorders was significantly higher compared to 6–9% among the general population. Diabetes prevalence with other conditions included:
In the case of some mental health conditions, including depression, there is an issue with underdiagnosis. Nearly half of mental health conditions among those with diabetes may go undiagnosed. It is essential to receive a correct and timely diagnosis if you are struggling with your mental health and have diabetes.
Have an open and honest conversation with a trusted healthcare provider at your next appointment. Your provider may ask you questions about your thoughts, appetite, or sleeping patterns, administer simple screening tests in which you answer a series of questions, or refer you to a mental health specialist.
It's never too early to contact a mental health professional. If you notice any symptoms of depression or anxiety, or feel "off" or not quite like your usual self, then it's worth discussing your situation with a professional.
Improving your mental health could help you better manage your diabetes and vice versa. For example, if you feel less apathetic, depressed, and exhausted, you may have more energy to spare for managing doctor’s appointments, medication schedules, and your diet. On the other hand, if your diabetes is better controlled, you may feel better physically, which can carry over to your mental well-being.
Treatments vary between different psychiatric conditions and may also depend on your specific symptoms, values and preferences, and existing medications.
Some treatments may include:
Living with diabetes can be stressful and is even associated with higher rates of some mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and certain eating disorders. However, the relationship between diabetes and mental health conditions is bi-directional. People with certain psychiatric conditions are also at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Managing diabetes involves massive lifestyle changes and can be quite stressful. If you find yourself struggling with your mental health and have diabetes, it's possible you could have a diagnosable mental health condition. Receiving treatment may help you feel better mentally and emotionally, as well as help you better manage your diabetes and feel better physically.
Yes, diabetes can affect your mood. Managing diabetes can be stressful and lead to overwhelming feelings of anger, depression, worry, anxiety, and even apathy. Additionally, physical effects of diabetes, such as hypoglycemia, can alter a person's mood by causing fatigue, difficulty concentrating, panic, and more.
Talk to your healthcare provider about options such as counseling or therapy—even if you don't have a diagnosed mental health condition. Diabetes educators can also offer techniques to manage your care, develop a routine, and communicate your needs with your loved ones. Support groups can also be affirming because you can discuss the unique stressors of life with diabetes with other people who understand what you're going through.
Robinson DJ, Coons M, Haensel H, et al. Diabetes and mental healthCanadian Journal of Diabetes. 2018;42:S130-S141. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2017.10.031
Mental Health America. Diabetes and mental health.
Lindekilde N, Scheuer SH, Rutters F, et al. Prevalence of type 2 diabetes in psychiatric disorders: an umbrella review with meta-analysis of 245 observational studies from 32 systematic reviews. Diabetologia. 2022;65(3):440-456. doi: 10.1007/s00125-021-05609-x
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and mental health.
Holt RI, de Groot M, Golden SH. Diabetes and depressionCurr Diab Rep. 2014;14(6):491. doi:10.1007/s11892-014-0491-3
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Winston AP. Eating disorders and diabetesCurr Diab Rep. 2020;20(8):32. doi: 10.1007/s11892-020-01320-0
By Sarah Bence
Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer. She specializes in a variety of health topics including mental health, dementia, celiac disease, and endometriosis.

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