Mental Health Problems With Diabetes?

Anxiety disorder and other psychiatric conditions may be more likely with diabetics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Many are aware that managing diabetes is a physical health challenge, but it turns out that diabetics may also be more likely to struggle with psychiatric problems.

Ana de Ornelas Maia and colleagues studied two hundred diabetic patients and found that diabetics were more likely than non-diabetics to be dealing with generalized anxiety disorder and other psychiatric conditions.

"If you have diabetic symptoms, consult a doctor."

How could a blood sugar disorder affect mental health? Science does not have the full story, but diabetes itself is fairly well known at this point.

Human physiology is a balancing act, where energy must be acquired then used or stored. The modern models of metabolism highlight the role of signals: from food, metabolic chemistry, hormonal secretions and molecular processes in cells.

"Diabetes" is a label for disorders where energy-rich sugars are not metabolized correctly, resulting in unhealthy high blood glucose levels.

The hormone insulin secreted from the pancreas causes certain cells to take in and store blood sugar. Sometimes not enough insulin is produced to regulate blood glucose, or cells do not properly respond to the insulin signals from the pancreas.

These situations correspond to the two major categories of diabetics: those patients with Type 1 have a disorder in which the pancreas does not make enough insulin; those with Type 2, one in which cells do not process blood insulin correctly.

According to the authors who reviewed current literature on the subject:

-Individuals with chronic diseases have twice the likelihood of having mood and anxiety disorders compared with healthy people.

-The prevalence of psychiatric disorders in diabetic patients may reach 84 percent for mood disorders and 80 percent for anxiety disorders.

-Patients with Type 1 diabetes have 3 to 4 times more suicidal ideation compared with non-diabetic patients.

de Ornelas Maia and colleagues recruited two hundred patients and divided them into two groups of the same size. The first group had been diagnosed with diabetes Type 1, while the second group had been diagnosed with diabetes Type 2. The team administered neuropsychiatric assessments and then analyzed the results.

The researchers found that "the groups showed a statistically significant difference in the presence of dysthymia, current depression, and panic disorder, which were more prevalent in patients with diabetes type 1."

Of the two hundred diabetic patients who were assessed, 21 percent were classified as having generalized anxiety disorder, 15 percent had a chronic type of depression in which a person's moods are regularly low ("dysthymia"), 7 percent had social phobia, 5.5 percent had current depression, 3.5 percent had lifelong depression, 2.5 percent were classified as panic disorder patients and 2 percent were considered at "risk of suicide".

The authors interpreted these data as meaning that the greater prevalence of psychiatric disorders in diabetic patients compared to non-diabetics "points to the need for greater investment in appropriate diagnostic evaluation of patients that considers mental issues."

The study was published in the April 20, 2012 journal Comprehensive Psychiatry. No financial conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 24, 2012
Last Updated:
July 26, 2012