Diabetes Management and Prevention with a Psychiatric Issue

Thousands of books have been written on the importance of diet and exercise for overall mental and physical health especially in terms of heart disease and diabetes, the two greatest risks for those with psychiatric disorders. And yet most of them, if not all leave out the most important obstacle to following the plans: people with psychiatric disorders are not like the general public. Nor are they similar to those with diabetes. There are special concerns that must be addressed in any diet and exercise recommendations:

  1. Depression significantly impacts a person's ability to cook, exercise and take care of personal health. In some severe cases, a person can hardly get out of bed and take a shower- so eating a healthy meal and taking a walk in the morning may not be a realistic option until the depression is treated. The anxiety that's present for almost all people with depression further complicates the problem.

  2. Bipolar disorder is a complicated illness that is difficult to manage even when a person finds medications that work. As anyone with mood swings knows, the illness takes all of a person's energy when it's raging. Preventing diabetes is often the last thing on a person's mind when they are ill. And then when things do get better, a person often wants to just relax and have a life again.

  3. Of all psychiatric disorders, schizophrenia is the most difficult to treat from a brain perspective, so many times the physical health of the person is second in terms of treatment. When a person has a thought disorder that may tell them the government is poisoning their food, the chances this person can monitor their blood sugar level and avoid sugar and high fat foods is slim.

So what is the answer? There is no one answer of course, but at least awareness is growing. In the past, symptom reduction was the number one goal. Today, it's widely accepted that the physical health of a person with a psychiatric disorder is just as important as their mental health. As you are currently reading this article, there is a good chance you have a clear enough brain to make the changes that can improve your physical health and hopefully prevent diabetes or if you have the illness, manage it more successfully. If you care about someone with a psychiatric disorder, it may be that you will have to be the one who helps the person make needed changes. This is especially true if your loved one has schizophrenia.


next: Four Ways to Prevent Diabetes When You Live with a Mental Illness ~ back to: Browse all Mental Health and Diabetes Articles

Last Updated: 18 September 2018

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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