How Hypoglycemia Affects My Emotions


Two days ago I lost the plot! I stormed off in the car!

Thinking about this two days later I realize it was an important reminder to be more careful with my diabetes management.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes just before Christmas two years ago. It certainly was an unwelcome Christmas gift that has had a huge impact on me! I believe that anyone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes goes through a similar process.

Initially, I was rather shell-shocked. My GP explained this had happened because of the amount of steroids I had been needing for my severe asthma that, at the time, I had only had for about 18 months.

I was shocked, and sort of numb. I had watched members of my family struggle with type 2 diabetes. My sister had it due to hormones produced by cancer; all Mum’s brothers also had it. So I knew all about the side effects of ulcers, amputations, blindness, injecting insulin, etc. as I had seen this happening to people I loved.

My son did his PhD in diabetes so, from him, I knew lots of things that diabetes did to your body. I didn’t really want this happening to me so initially, I set about in a determined way to control my blood glucose levels. Because of needing steroids on a daily basis, I couldn’t control my glucose levels solely through diet and exercise. I needed medication. This medication gave me dreadful diarrhea until my body eventually adjusted.

But for me, the worst impact has been the emotional and psychological impacts. I thought I knew about diabetes, but it so different when you are going through it yourself. Trying to work out what affects you and what doesn’t. For example, bread has a huge impact on me, but is a staple for other people; my body does have significant reactions to large shifts in my glucose levels such as nausea, blurry vision, sweats, emotional responses… but this isn’t the case for everyone.

My blood glucose level changes impact my emotions hugely! My doctor and diabetes educator just didn’t initially volunteer this information. When asked directly, they confirmed that glucose levels do affect our emotions. If I’d only known this at the beginning!

On Monday when I lost it with my husband, I became furious and so hurt by something he said. I stormed off in the car as fast as I could, kicking up a spray of gravel, and I flung a few choice words in his direction. I cried. And I couldn’t stop crying.

This was all very dramatic and hadn’t happened for quite some time. When I eventually came home I decided to test my blood glucose level. Very low! Too low to have been driving! So low that my emotional outburst now made sense! I know a type 2 diabetic on metformin doesn’t really experience hypoglycemic episodes in the same way as someone who is type 1 or someone who is type 2 and requires insulin. But I also have learned that everyone responds differently.

What I have found from experience is that once my readings start to fall below a specific level I start to feel nauseous, hungry and I start to be difficult to be around! This is what happens with hypoglycemia. Diabetes.co.uk says this:

“Hypoglycemia causes the brain to lack the sugar it needs to operate at 100% which can lead to diminished inhibitions. Hypoglycemia may greatly increase your emotional response which can make you exceptionally happy, silly, worried, frightened, paranoid or angry.

Researchers also indicate that there can be negative interpersonal behaviors.

I certainly displayed several negative interpersonal  behaviors, inhibitions and anger! But, I didn’t have a clue that my glucose levels were down!

Diabetes type 2 can be very difficult to adjust to. It brings baggage such as guilt and anger into your life too. The guilt for me was akin to blaming myself for this happening, because society keeps saying it is preventable. I actually believed this despite knowing this didn’t really apply in my situation. And, linking type 2 with obesity and lack of exercise adds to the guilt. I experience anger because this disease is so constant, so demanding and so unrelenting. It requires huge changes in your life to monitor and manage it in order to prevent dreadful long-term consequences.

Next time I have a temper tantrum looming, I hope I can recognize the drop of glucose in my body. Gosh, this illness is sneaky and demanding!

I also need to recognize this incident as an important reminder about driving as a diabetic.

1. In Australia you can’t drive when your glucose level is below five.

2. I must have my meter and test strips with me whenever I drive.

3. I must eat every two hours when driving and re-check my glucose levels.

4. I need to carry glucose tablets or jelly beans with me when I am driving.

5. I must remember that high glucose levels can also be dangerous as your vision blurs and your thinking becomes fuzzy!

6. To drive, be above five! And, test before I drive!

This has been a salient lesson about diabetes. I need to monitor my blood glucose levels much better than I have been and take a more proactive approach.

How do others manage dilemmas such as this?

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Photo via kzenon on Getty Images

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