Diabetes and social anxiety have a close relationship. Research shows that people living with diabetes are 20% more likely to struggle with symptoms of anxiety than those without diabetes, and social phobia is the second most prevalent anxiety disorder in people with diabetes. Because anxiety is associated with hyperglycemia and increased risk of stroke, seeking mental health support is important not only for your emotional well-being but also for your diabetes management.
The Relationship Between Diabetes and Social Anxiety
It hasn't been established that diabetes can cause social anxiety, and not everyone with both diabetes and social anxiety has anxiety symptoms related to their diabetes. However, for many people with social anxiety, diabetes and diabetes management can introduce unique stressors that trigger anxiety. While everyone’s experience is unique, you may find yourself having to deal with
- Shyness about your diagnosis,
- Embarrassment about checking glucose in a public setting (e.g., while at school, work, a restaurant, etc.),
- Misunderstanding from others,
- Being treated differently by friends and family,
- Discrimination, and/or
- Low or high blood sugar events in a public setting.
And it’s not a one-way relationship. In addition to the impact of diabetes on social anxiety, numerous studies have found a strong link between psychological stress and diabetes outcomes. Research shows that emotional distress in people living with diabetes is associated with poor glycemic control, poor self-care, and adverse diabetes outcomes.
Creating a Path to Wellness
Recognizing and addressing social anxiety and other mental health issues in people living with diabetes is important for proper diabetes management. Social anxiety and other forms of psychological stress can greatly impact your ability to manage your condition, which poses both short- and long-term health concerns. By seeking support and finding effective ways to combat your social anxiety, you can learn to manage your stressors, better manage your diabetes, and support emotional well-being.
Seek Social and Professional Support
Social support—both from family and friends and medical professionals—can play a pivotal role in your health and contribute to the successful management of both diabetes and social anxiety.
If you’re struggling with social anxiety related to diabetes, getting the right kind of support is key. It’s important that you seek help from your healthcare provider. They can help determine whether or not you have an anxiety disorder and offer treatment or refer you to a mental health professional. Many mental health professionals have expertise in diabetes care and have experience treating people living with diabetes. Connecting with someone about your anxiety who understands the unique social and emotional challenges of living with diabetes can be incredibly powerful.
It’s important to give yourself grace and understand that you’re not alone in this journey. Many people living with diabetes experience anxiety, and it’s more than okay to need help. Beyond seeking professional support, you may consider joining a diabetes support group, confiding in friends and family, or meeting with a certified diabetes care education specialist (CDCES).
Find Simple, Discreet Diabetes Management Tools
Daily diabetes self-care tasks, such as checking blood glucose levels, can add an extra layer of stress to your day-to-day life. A common cause of social anxiety in those living with diabetes is fear of or embarrassment surrounding checking blood glucose levels in public.
Monitoring blood glucose levels and keeping track of changes is a key aspect of diabetes management. In addition to helping you identify high and low blood sugar events, it allows you and your healthcare provider to
- Assess the effects of diabetes medications on blood glucose levels,
- Analyze the efficacy of your treatment plan and make adjustments when necessary, and
- Understand how factors such as diet, exercise, and stress affect glucose levels.
Many people living with diabetes need to check their blood glucose levels several times a day. If you’re out in a public setting—whether at school, the office, a restaurant, or elsewhere—you either need to find a private place to check your levels or check in front of other people. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with checking your glucose in public, it can be anxiety inducing.
Traditional blood glucose monitors (BGMs) involve several pieces of equipment (the BGM, a lancing device and lancets, test strips, and batteries) and a multistep process, making it difficult to check your levels without anyone noticing.
An automatic blood glucose monitor (ABGM), like the POGO Automatic® Monitor, allows for automatic lancing and blood collection with the press of a button. This provides a fast, easy, and discreet way to check your blood sugar, whether at home or on the go, and eliminates the need to haul around testing supplies.
Take Charge of Your Mental and Physical Health
If you’re living with diabetes and social anxiety, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Collaborate with your healthcare team to create a treatment and management plan that works for you. With the tools and support you need to care for your mental and physical health, you’ll be empowered to manage your social anxiety and blood glucose in the best way possible.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.