Uncontrolled Diabetes and Mental Health Complications

Uncontrolled diabetes can increase the risk for several physical and mental health complications. Learn what they are and how they happen on HealthyPlace.

Complications from uncontrolled diabetes, including mental health complications, can be serious. When diabetes is uncontrolled, blood sugar (glucose) spikes to dangerous levels, a condition known as severe hyperglycemia. This occurs when, for various reasons, diabetes isn’t properly managed. Dire consequences can arise from extreme hyperglycemia. Awareness of uncontrolled diabetes complications can help people manage their diabetes and avoid mental health complications and physical problems.

Controlling diabetes can be very difficult. While regular medical checkups are necessary as well as visits with other members of a diabetes management team, diabetes is a disease that is largely self-managed. Diabetes demands constant treatment through vigilant monitoring, adjustment, and action throughout the day, every day.

Medication is often needed many times a day, and lifestyle management—including proper diet and nutrition, exercise, and self-care—must be rigorously followed. If anything slides, diabetes can become uncontrolled.

Uncontrolled Diabetes Complications

When diabetes self-management falters or when diabetes is undiagnosed and thus untreated, both physical and mental health suffer. Hyperglycemia can damage every system and every organ in the body. Uncontrolled diabetes complications can involve:

  • The cardiovascular system (such as the heart and blood vessels)
  • Nerves
  • Eyes
  • Kidneys
  • Digestive tract
  • The mouth (including teeth and gums)
  • Feet
  • Skin
  • Ears/hearing

Hyperglycemia also impacts the brain. Diabetes has been implicated as a factor in Alzheimer’s disease. Further, uncontrolled diabetes leads to mental health complications.

Mental Health Complications and Uncontrolled Diabetes

Diabetes and mental health have a rather enmeshed relationship. Mental health conditions can contribute to the development of diabetes. Likewise, living with diabetes can contribute to the development of disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more. Psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia, have a strong correlation with diabetes ("What’s the Link Between Diabetes and Mental Illness?").

Sometimes, mental health disorders such as depression can be a factor in blood sugar reaching out-of-control levels. As mentioned, diabetes is largely self-managed, and the constant care it requires is difficult to sustain with depression’s fatigue, low motivation, and poor self-care (including lack of nutrition and physical activity).

Having diabetes can cause mental health complications. On a physical level, high blood sugar affects the functioning of the brain. One way the brain is harmed by hyperglycemia is at the neurochemical level. Hormones like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, cortisol, and others play a significant role in mental health and functioning. Excess blood sugar affects neurochemical levels and operation, leading to complications.

On a mental/emotional level, the demands of living with and managing diabetes can cause great distress. For example, when frustrations are high or health worries soar, mental health can suffer.

These are risks of having diabetes. When diabetes is uncontrolled and high blood glucose levels affect the brain, mental health troubles can become more pronounced. Uncontrolled diabetes can increase the risk of mental health problems such as:

Uncontrolled diabetes and mental health complications have an adverse effect on the quality of life and a sense of wellbeing. The fact that mental health challenges and diabetes contribute to and worsen each other makes this a vicious circle that can be hard to break.

However, it is indeed possible to control diabetes and improve mental health. Awareness of the complications that stem from the relationship is a great starting point. Use the information to begin to make small, positive changes every day. Both diabetes symptoms and mental health will improve.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2022, January 4). Uncontrolled Diabetes and Mental Health Complications, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, July 24 from

Last Updated: January 12, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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