Why is stress a factor in the development of diabetes ?

The interaction between stress and diabetes is complex. On the one hand, stress can lead to the development of diabetes, on the other hand, having diabetes can lead to stress. Clarify the nature of these relationships and the main strategies adopted to reduce stress in daily life.

Diabetes as a source of stress

Diabetes is a source of stress for the following reasons :

– It is a chronic, lifelong and enforced disease.

– People affected are dependent on treatment and forced to change their lifestyle.

– Treatment can cause side effects.

– The risk of complications has increased with countless setbacks.

– The disease affects self-image and self-confidence.

– People with the disease may experience prejudice and discrimination : at work, when taking out insurance, in the eyes of others, etc.

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Blood sugar : the effect of stress

Stressful conditions specific to diabetes, and even psychological conflicts other than diabetes, can unbalance the blood glucose stability of patients with diabetes. Actually, stress may cause the appearance of diabetes in two different ways :

Firstly, stress can affect diabetes control through the hyperglycaemic effect of stress hormones. In a stressful situation, the body secretes stress hormones, namely catecholamines (epinephrine, norepinephrine), cortisol, glucagon and growth hormone. These stress hormones have the effect of raising blood sugar levels to provide the body with the energy to act (flee or fight) against the source of stress.

Secondly, stress can also negatively affect diabetes control through stress coping strategies or behaviours (eating more or less, drinking excessively, etc.). Similarly, high stress can also negatively affect the motivation of diabetics to participate in treatment, thereby improving their blood glucose control.

Stress performance

Stress performance varies from person to person, depending on their personality, ability to adapt and resist stress. Signs can be seen in physical (sweaty hands, faster heartbeat), mental (disappointment, inability to cry, depression) or behavioural (memory loss, increased alcohol consumption) ways. It is important to be aware of the emotion you are feeling, to welcome it, to express it and to find the need behind the emotion.

Different responses to stress

– Isolating yourself from time to time helps you to think about how to manage your life, but avoiding contact with others can lead to depression.

– Dramatising your condition will only increase stress levels, just as denying it does not help you control it.

– Ignoring it may provide temporary relief, but it does not prevent the negative effects of diabetes.

– An occasional drink or sleeping pill may be acceptable, but excessive drinking, drug use, sleeping pills, etc. can have the worst effects. This can be harmful and cause a many other problems.

– Seeking help does not mean weakness or dependence. It can help you to cope with difficulties, as long as you take responsibility for your actions.

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