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Challenges of Treating Diabetes When You Have ADHD

Treating diabetes and ADHD can be challenging. Learn why ADHD can make managing diabetes difficult, plus discover tips for treating ADHD and diabetes on HealthyPlace.

The challenges of treating diabetes when you have ADHD can be frustrating. Diabetes and ADHD can affect each other, and when one isn’t managed, it can spiral out of control and take the other with it. The high and low blood sugar levels that are part of diabetes negatively impact the body and brain and make managing both diabetes and ADHD that much more challenging. Further, treating diabetes when you have ADHD is difficult, and the risk of blood sugar swings and health problems increases.  Understanding treatment difficulties can help you become better at treating diabetes and ADHD.

How ADHD Makes Treating Diabetes Difficult

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder involves difficulty focusing and paying attention. Additionally, remembering information is a problem for those living with ADHD. The process of committing information to both short- and long-term memory is disrupted in ADHD. This is unfortunate for diabetes management, something that requires focus, attention, and memory.

Someone living with ADHD often struggles to remember daily tasks ("ADHD and Diabetes Symptoms Can Look Similar"). When one of those tasks is diabetes monitoring and care, this can have dire health consequences.

Trying to treat diabetes and ADHD can create strong emotional responses:

  • A sense of being overwhelmed
  • The crushing feeling that dealing with these is impossible
  • Frustration
  • Despair
  • Anger about having diabetes and ADHD

These emotions get in the way of treating diabetes and ADHD. It’s not uncommon for people to want to give up trying to treat these illnesses. Others might, out of a need to make things simple, take insulin injections without first checking blood sugar levels. Taking too much insulin for diabetes or doing nothing to manage it leads to dangerous problems with blood sugar levels. When not managed properly, blood sugar can climb too high (hyperglycemia) or drop too low (hypoglycemia).

Diabetes becomes more difficult to treat, too, with the focusing problems caused by ADHD. Just like diabetes causes both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, ADHD causes the brain to swing from hyperfocused to hypofocused.  Both focusing extremes can interfere in diabetes treatment.

Hypofocus refers to an inability to concentrate and pay attention. It causes what seems like forgetfulness, and it often prevents people from remembering to check their blood sugar levels and administer insulin. The other extreme is hyperfocusing. ADHD can cause someone to dive so completely into a single task that everything else, including important things like diabetes management, slips away.

The nature of ADHD can make the tasks of diabetes self-care and management difficult. Without proper care, diabetes leads to health problems, and it impacts the brain in such a way that ADHD symptoms worsen.

Treating ADHD and diabetes almost always involves medication. Ironically, medications that are meant to treat these conditions can sometimes make them difficult to manage.

Diabetes and ADHD Medications

Medication is a vital part of treatment for both ADHD and diabetes. Insulin is always required in type 1 diabetes treatment because the body doesn’t make insulin on its own but needs it to regulate blood sugar. It’s sometimes used to treat type 2 diabetes as well. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with other medications in addition to or instead of insulin.

Medication is frequently prescribed to manage the symptoms of ADHD. Many different options are available, including stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin.

Researchers haven’t discovered evidence that medication for one of these conditions directly causes the other. Diabetes medication hasn’t been shown to lead to the development of ADHD, nor does ADHD medication cause diabetes.

Medication, though, does play a role in diabetes management. Adderall, Ritalin, and other ADHD medications can suppress appetite; therefore, someone taking a stimulant for ADHD is likely to eat less, which in diabetes can result in hypoglycemia. It can be difficult to treat diabetes consistently without a steady supply of food into the system.

Tips for Treating Diabetes and ADHD

While it’s s true that living with diabetes and ADHD can be frustrating and treating these sometimes feels impossible, both conditions can indeed be managed so you can live a quality life. Use these tips to help you shape a treatment plan that works for you:

  • Work with your doctor to discover the most effective types of ADHD and diabetes medications.
  • Consider counseling to help you deal with intense thoughts and emotions and come to terms with having two difficult illnesses.
  • Develop a routine for taking your medication, testing your blood sugar, and engaging in other aspects of treatment (exercise, creating meal plans, finding ways to increase focus, etc.)
  • Write your routine into a calendar or other schedule that you can easily refer to as a reminder.
  • Think in terms of daily, or even hourly, management activities. What do you need to do, moment by moment, to manage your diabetes and ADHD?

Treating ADHD and diabetes is difficult sometimes. However, you can learn to organize, remember, and do what you need to do to stay healthy. You’ll be rewarded with a physically and mentally healthy life.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, January 8). Challenges of Treating Diabetes When You Have ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/diabetes/mental-health/challenges-of-treating-diabetes-when-you-have-adhd

Last Updated: 2019, May 10

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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