MOOD AND BG LEVELS – A T1D CAPE TOWNIAN MOTHER’S PERSPECTIVE
Michelle is a mother of three-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes, living in Cape Town and she also works for Medtronic Diabetes Southern Africa. She shares her nuggets of wisdom with us about how your BG levels can affect your mood and emotions.
It is just one of those things that no one can prepare you for at diagnosis. You are taught to inject, use your pump, measure your blood sugar, and count carbs. They tell you how different foods may affect your blood sugar levels; they tell you that exercise and certain medications will too. If you’re lucky, they may mention that growth hormones can affect blood sugar levels and if you are really lucky, they may warn you that stress can too. But no one tells you how diabetes will affect your or your loved ones moods. Even when researching this piece, I found only one article from 2006 on Type 2 Diabetes in men and moods, and the odd reference to research done on the link between depression and type 1 diabetes, but nothing on day-to-day mood swings.
Standing in front of my angry, frustrated, stomping-foot toddler, I find myself wondering “Is he just being a defiant three-year-old? Is he playing up and angry because of his diabetes? Or simply, is his blood sugar just high or low?” Discipline becomes tricky in that moment.
I watch him on the play-ground: a small mishap with a friend and there comes the flood of tears. I can almost feel the judging eyes of the other child’s mom thinking “Oh here we go again…” and all I can think is “I wonder how low his blood sugar is now?”
Well-meaning friends’ and relatives’ favourite line becomes: “You can’t let diabetes always become his excuse. You let him get away with everything.” I want to snap back, “Haven’t you ever felt grumpy when you are hungry? Well times that by a thousand and that’s how he feels when his blood sugar is low”.
People are quick to tell you that their child’s wild/ hyperactive behavior is a result of all the sugar that they consumed at a party and yet the truth is that, that child’s sugar is probably just sitting on the upper limit of what would be considered a normal blood sugar. Why would it be so hard to believe that when a Type 1 eats a sandwich and their blood sugar rushes up to 13 mmol/L that they might also become a little “wild”.
Anyone who lives with a Type 1 will tell you that in no uncertain terms, diabetes affects moods. Lows often result in feeling of sadness and high blood sugars often result in feeling of frustration and anger. Although, upon asking many adult Type 1s this question, as is with all Type 1 symptoms, the answers always vary. Many have told me after a severe low episode or a sustained high blood sugar, they do not even remember the actual argument or mood swing.
Something I do regularly with my son, is ask him to stop and tell me how he feels. I’m sure, as he approaches adolescence, the answers will become shorter and perhaps non- existent, but for now all I can hope is that he learns to identify why he is feeling the way he does and it will help me understand better too. And on the subject of adolescence, well I’m not sure I’m ready to go there, I can only begin to imagine the combined impact of hormones and blood sugars on moods!
Medtronic Diabetes Southern Africa