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From Psychologist’s Desk: How Stress Can Worsen Your Diabetes

Updated on: Feb 01, 2024
5 min Read
How Stress Can Worsen Your Diabetes
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Nearly 66% of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes have high-stress levels. Stress can both contribute to and can be a consequence of diabetes. Keeping your stress levels under control can help you manage diabetes better.

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What is Stress?

Stress is the way your mind and body react in any given situation. It might be temporary, like worrying about a meeting in the office or feeling tense before giving a presentation.

Or it can be due to something serious like an accident or an illness. You may also have constant worries about finances or family relationships or coping with the loss of someone very close to you.

Stress can affect you emotionally, physically and mentally.

High stress can worsen your diabetes in 5 different ways-

1. Stress can increase your blood sugar levels

When there is a stressful situation, your body releases the stress hormones – Cortisol and Adrenaline into the bloodstream. These hormones help the body to get through challenging situations (fight or flight).

As a result, your heart rate or breathing may speed up. More and more energy is required in the body to deal with stressful situations. Hence more sugar is released into the blood so that all the systems of the body can utilize adequate energy.

The net result is – high blood sugar levels.

2. Stress can affect the metabolism of your body

When dealing with chronic stress, you might notice some weight gain, especially around the belly. This is commonly known as the Stress Belly.

This is because when cortisol levels increase in the blood, it increases your appetite. Additionally, elevated cortisol levels can increase your craving for salty, sweet and fatty foods.

As a result, you may end up eating more and eating up all unhealthy junk at odd hours, due to which fat accumulation increases many folds.

3. Stress can lead to Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a hormone that helps to control sugar levels in the body. However, due to prolonged stress and high cortisol levels, your pancreas may find it challenging to secrete enough insulin to channelize excess glucose in the body and convert it into energy.

Due to this, sugar levels increase, leading to several health complications. This is insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of developing Prediabetes. Or, if you have diabetes already, then high stress levels can further worsen your health condition.

4. Stress impacts sleep, which impairs glucose tolerance

Stress often causes tension and anxiety in the individual’s mind, making it challenging to have a sound sleep at night. Research suggests that a minimum of 6 hours of sleep is required for a healthy individual.

If you sleep less than 6 hours per day, it can lead to glucose intolerance, a condition in which the body cannot dispose of excess glucose. This often precedes or can even worsen Type 2 diabetes.

5. Stress affects your lifestyle factors

High-stress levels may result in unhealthy lifestyle habits like eating unhealthy foods, lack of exercise or physical exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

In addition, negativity in thoughts forces an individual to seek support and temporary relief from such activities. These lifestyle habits can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes or further worsen the disease.

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Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

Many researchers are still exploring this question. However, there is enough evidence from several studies that suggest that stress increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

High levels of stress hormones might stop insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from working correctly. Or people, when highly stressed out, might end up overeating and putting on weight. All these factors do cause diabetes or increase the risk.

Is it only ‘Negative Stress’ which can affect your blood sugars?

Not really. Even positive life changes can cause blood sugars to swing.

For example, events like planning a wedding, moving to a new city or getting a job promotion – these ‘happy stressors’ can also cause the level of stress hormones to rise in your blood and lead to high blood sugars.

This means that if you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it, you should keep a close watch on your sugars while various significant events keep happening in your life.

In the above section, we have tried to understand how stress can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes or worsen it further. However, having diabetes and managing it can be equally stressful and emotionally burdening for many.

For example, a recent study on 100 patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes showed that 60% of patients had a high emotional burden of diabetes. This is the extent to which diabetes has affected them emotionally. As a result, these patients have started perceiving diabetes as a burden.

And 52% of patients had high regimen distress. The regimen includes all lifestyle behaviours like following a strict diet, exercising regularly, finding time for relaxation, taking medicines on time, monitoring blood sugar levels regularly – all of this can add a lot of stress to an individual.

In addition to this, some people with diabetes worry about hypoglycemia (a condition in which blood sugars drop below 70 mg/dL). It might be stressful wondering when and where hypo might happen and how to manage it. This is known as hypo anxiety.


If you have diabetes, stress management is not only about finding different ways to relax; it is also about controlling your blood sugars. While stress can cause fluctuations in your blood glucose levels, the reverse can also happen.

In other words, uncontrolled diabetes levels can affect your emotions too. So ignoring stress or pretending that you don’t have any stress will not help.

Instead, you should take advice from an expert Diabetes Educator and a Clinical Psychologist to help you manage both – your blood sugar and your stress levels.

To help you do just that, we at Fitterfly, offer group sessions to deal with stress. There are expert sessions for Stress and Sleep Management and also various allied sessions that revolve specifically around Diabetes Management on a daily basis. The topics range from dealing with cravings, time management for better health management, relaxation etc

This is a part of our multidisciplinary Diabetes program designed for people with Diabetes: Fitterfly Diabetes Prime program provides a 360-degree care focusing on the 4 main pillars of diabetes management: nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress management.

Our team of experts includes Clinical Psychologists, Nutritionists, Diabetologists and Certified Physiotherapists.

Get one-on-one consultation, guided group therapy sessions and prescription from Fitterfly’s Clinical Psychologist to manage stress and manage your Diabetes like a pro.

Kill two birds with one stone by enrolling with Fitterfly Diabetes Care Program. For more information, speak to us or call us on 08069450746.


This blog provides general information for educational and informational purposes only and shouldn't be seen as professional advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the connection between Stress and Diabetes?

Research suggests that high levels of stress hormones might stop insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from working properly and reduce the amount of insulin they make. Diabetes is often a cause of stress, particularly in the early days when you’ve just been diagnosed. Having to pay close to attention to what you eat and having lots of new things to learn and remember can feel tough. It may mean you now have to check your blood sugar levels a lot or inject yourself every day. Worrying about what the results will say or feeling anxious about needles can be really stressful.

Does Stress Increase Blood Sugar?

If you’re feeling stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This should give you an energy boost for a ‘fight or flight’ response. But the hormones actually make it harder for insulin to work properly, known as insulin resistance. As energy can’t get into your cells, your blood sugar levels rise. If stress doesn’t go away, it can keep your blood sugar levels high and put you at higher risk of diabetes complications. It can also affect your mood and how you look after yourself, which can start to affect your emotional health.

How Can Stress Cause Diabetes

While stress alone isn't a direct cause of diabetes, it can trigger Diabetes? it can trigger it in many indirect ways. People with diabetes often feel overwhelmed or frustrated with their condition, worrying about potential health complications or feeling guilty when they are not able to manage it well. High levels of stress can increase these feelings, making it harder to cope with diabetes management. Moreover, stress can lead to an increase in risk factors associated with diabetes. It often results in poor dietary choices (like overeating, eating junk or erratic eating patterns) and a reduction in physical activity. Not just this, stress can cause mood disturbances like anxiety and depression, which are common mental health issues that coexist with Diabetes. These factors, combined with poor sleep hygiene, can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices, ultimately increasing the risk of developing diabetes. Some individuals when stressed tend to eat excessively. This can result in gaining a lot of weight, which is a known factor to increase the risk of Type2 Diabetes.

How can stress affect Diabetes?

Stress can disrupt anyone’s routine. When a person is dealing with diabetes, it can potentially affect them more. They need to manage diet, exercise, and medication adherence, which are crucial for blood sugar control. All this can get overwhelming at times. Not to forget the other stressors in life too. All these put together, can cause fluctuations in a person’s blood sugar levels. That’s why it's most important to deal with your stress properly when you are managing Diabetes.

What are Tips to Manage Stress in Diabetes?

alking to a professional can give a healthy perspective to the entire situation and give you relief from stress. Taking care of your lifestyle by ensuring a healthy and balanced diet along with regular exercise helps to regulate stress levels. Incorporating relaxation techniques and breathing techniques really help in reducing stress significantly and have a very positive impact on overall wellbeing. Using Fitterfly's Mood Tracker can be of great help in understanding fluctuations in your mood over a period of time, exploring mood patterns over a week or month and trying out customized interventions to get immediate relief. Using this mood tracker regularly can help reduce stress levels.

What is Fitterfly Mood Tracker?

It is an innovative tool on Fitterfly’s App to assess your mood at any time during the day. It helps track your mood throughout the day and give you valuable insights about how your mood might be affecting your food choices, relationships, work life and much more. Not only this, the mood tracker is equipped with more than 100 interventions which will help you manage your mood and give you momentary relief. These interventions are a combination of videos, activities and guided audios. Mood is a key influencer when it comes to implementing lifestyle changes. Now with the mood tracker, you can explore various emotions which are frequently experienced by people with diabetes. You also get an opportunity to understand patterns of mood and how it enhances or acts as a hurdle in your diabetes management journey. To make the best use of the tracker, we recommend using it at least once a day.

- By Fitterfly Health-Team
Nitish Prasad | 40 Years
Achieved Diabetes Reversal in just 3 months!
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HbA1c : 9.4% 5.8%
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