Mental illness is more common than a person might think it is and can have a substantial impact on the day-to-day functioning of individuals. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to talk about how mental health affects living with diabetes and how we can promote our overall well-being with different strategies.


According to the CDC, “People with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes. Only 25% to 50% of people with diabetes who have depression get diagnosed and treated.”

Depression is so much more than feeling sad. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, symptoms of depression can range in severity and include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Restlessness or slow movement
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

The earlier depression is treated, the better. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having any symptoms of depression. Treatment consists of therapy, medication, or both, and is usually very effective.


Stress is something that occurs frequently in our everyday lives, and can affect us both physically and emotionally. Anxiety is how your mind and body react to stress, and can present as feelings of worry, fear, or being on edge.

🛈 When a person is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or stress, a quick and easy method to calm our bodies and minds is “box breathing”. To do this, inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold your breath again for 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle at least 4 times, or until your body and mind feel more relaxed. This can also be done with a 4 second inhale, 7 second hold, and 8 second exhale, if your lung capacity allows.

breathing📌“Diabetes Distress”

Diabetes Distress occurs when there is emotional grief that is associated with the burden of having to constantly manage the disease state, fear of long-term consequences, financial struggles, and the feeling of not being supported through it all. Diabetes Distress can sometimes be mistaken for depression, however, the emotional symptoms mainly surround the struggles of managing diabetes and the complications that may arise with the disease state. Around 1 in 4 individuals with type 1 diabetes will experience Diabetes Distress, 1 in 5 individuals with type 2 diabetes who are on insulin, and 1 in 10 individuals with type 2 diabetes who are not on insulin. 

Burnout and distress are a very real thing when it comes to managing diabetes. You are not alone in your journey of highs and lows. If you are concerned that you may have diabetes distress, talk with your healthcare provider about different strategies that you can do to help minimize the burden. The most important thing about your health is to figure out what works best for YOU. No method is perfect and there are many different support systems within healthcare institutions and online that share healthy and delicious recipes, provide education on medications/coping mechanisms/preventative planning, and foster support within the diabetes community. Here at Iowa Diabetes, we have a Diabetes Management Support program which helps you gain a better understanding of your health, and we support you through it all. 

The month of May – Mental Health Awareness Month – is the perfect time to look inward and acknowledge our wide range of emotions that we may experience throughout our lifetime. Living with diabetes can be a difficult and frustrating thing, which may negatively affect our mental health. If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, sad, or not like your normal self, talk with your healthcare provider to get resources/information that will support you in your everyday life. You are not alone in your diabetes!