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What is the Relationship Between Stress and Diabetes?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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It is generally accepted that stress is bad for a person both mentally and physically. This is true when it comes to a range of conditions, including diabetes. When a person is under stress, hormones in his body trigger a rise in blood sugar. This is the body's way of preparing itself for extra exertion caused by stress. Unfortunately, a diabetic’s body cannot control the sugar rise as well as it should, and stress may contribute to blood sugar levels that are high enough to become dangerous.

The relationship between stress and diabetes is due, in part, to the effect of stress on hormones in the patient’s body. When a person is under stress, hormones called cortisol and epinephrine act on the body to increase energy. They do this by raising blood sugar levels temporarily. This rise in blood sugar can affect anyone who is under stress, however, not just people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

The relationship between stress and diabetes can be a dangerous one. While stress can cause anyone’s blood sugar to rise, it can be worse in diabetics, as their bodies are not able to effectively counteract the rise in blood sugar. Unfortunately, stress levels can rise because of a wide variety of factors, many of which may be out of the patient’s control. For example, a person may experience emotional and physical stress in response to overexertion and illness.

While the relationship between short-term stress and diabetes can cause temporary blood sugar increases, long-term stresses may expose a person to on-going problems with diabetes. For example, if a person is suffering from depression, his stress levels may remain consistently high. As a result, the patient may have a more difficult time managing his blood sugar. Additionally, stress can lead to other health problems, which may cause additional stress for the patient and contribute even more to blood sugar elevation.

Some of the relationship between stress and diabetes is beyond a diabetic’s control, but there are some ways that stress may interfere with things the patient can control. For example, a person who is dealing with depression may feel less motivated to be careful with his diet. He may eat things that are bad for him in an effort to feel relief from stress and depression. He may even stop exercising, which can be detrimental for controlling diabetes, because he feels less motivated or disinterested in the things he used to consider important.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Feb 11, 2013

@MikeMason-- That sounds very logical.

I don't think that stress caused my diabetes, but I do think that it caused my diabetes to develop faster.

I have type 2 diabetes and it's hereditary. My mom and dad both have it, so do several people on my mom's side of the family. However, they all developed diabetes in their fifties. I developed diabetes at the age of twenty-four, after two years of excessive stress where I was working three jobs and going to school at the same time.

By stoneMason — On Feb 10, 2013

I always thought that stress leads to diseases by weakening the immune system. I've read that constant stress prevents the production of hormones that keep our immune system strong and healthy. Could this be another explanation of how stress can lead to diabetes?

By bear78 — On Feb 10, 2013

I didn't think that stress could cause diabetes but I'm convinced of it since seeing my neighbor's condition.

My neighbor's son died in Iraq several years ago. Several months after his death, my neighbor was hospitalized and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

I realized then that stress can do a lot of damage, even induce diabetes.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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