Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anxiety and Diabetes

This is something I've wanted to write about for a long time.  However, things settled down greatly for me and so I lost the motivation.

I am no stranger to anxiety.  I think I am generally a stressed out sometimes wound tight individual.  It's gotten loads better over the years mostly due to recognizing it and helping myself before it gets too bad.  Granted the anti-depressants I'm on have a good anxiety lowering effect too.

When I turned 30 I started having panic attacks.  In fact the first one I had was actually ON my birthday.  Not fun.  It was terrifying as the word "panic" says it all.  My whole body tingled.  I felt like I was going to be sick and I started sweating profusely and hyperventilating.  Then all my muscles would go weak and I would fall over.  I was usually in the bathroom (because I felt sick) and would faint and later wake up on the cold tile floor.  The first time it happened I banged my head on the bathtub.

It happened a few more times but eventually subsided.  Each panic attack being less violent then the last.  Eventually I got the idea that I should shuffle out to the couch and ride it out.  Don't try to make it to the bathroom where there are hard surfaces.

I noticed the attacks would come after long periods of stress.  I found that increased anxiety seemed to be cumulative.  They would always happen AFTER the fact.  Sometimes by days and when I was least expecting it.  Normally they would get me in the middle of the night.  I would get startled out of sleep.

It's been a long time - maybe more than a year since I've had a panic attack until Sunday night.  I know there has been a lot of emotional stress in my life over the past week.  It sort of felt like things were building again but I couldn't stop what was already going to happen.  That's the worst thing about panic attacks.  So I staggered out to the couch and laid there riding it out.  Once it was over and I could breath again the fear left me alone in a dark house.  That, too is very difficult.

The worst part about the panic attacks is not the actual attack, its the aftermath it has on my blood sugars.  I learned the first few times that as soon as it's passed I have to bump my temp basal rates on my pump up to at least 160% for the next 12-24 hours depending on the intensity of the attack.  When you think about it, it makes sense.  Panic is a rush of adrenaline coursing through your body and adrenaline releases glucose.  It's just the duration that makes me really look at it.  Holy shit, one 5 minute panic attack raises my blood sugar to ungodly limits for 12-24 hours.  What exactly is going on in there?!  That really freaks me out.

I thought I was over these and I surely hope I don't get another one.  They come with no warning.  I felt SO SO SO sick in the morning I couldn't even stand up and had to call in sick to work.  Panic attacks are the most draining and exhausting thing you can imagine.  They wipe you of everything in minutes.

For me, it's just something else that scares me being alone in the middle of the night.

I don't suppose anybody else has any experience with diabetes and panic attacks?


  1. I do have panic attacks at times, though not as severe. I'm not sure if I have any words of wisdom that could do any major good, however I didn't want to read this and not offer a shoulder. {{{hugs}}}

  2. OMG so much sympathy coming your way from me right now. I started having these in high school and then when 3 friends died in one year they got worse. I would run out of college classes (making it hard to pass) Once, I saw a horror movie with friends and they found me halfway through the movie outside near the snack booth, crouched on the floor, bawling my eyes out. Strangers were asking me if they should call 911 and I couldn't even answer them. It's SO embarrasing because people assumed I could just "get up and breathe" but I couldn't. Anyway, you're right, the adrenaline does some major damage to blood sugars. For me, it also raises my blood pressure. I got rid of my panic attacks about 6 years ago-which is when Alex and I got together-and that's probably not a coincidence. My anxiety has been getting the best of me lately, though. I feel "on the verge" if you know what I mean. It angers me because I know my blood pressure goes up and I know that affects my damn kidneys and eyes...and I don't need any of that! Anyway, I should be seeing someone about this soon. In the past, visiting a counselor helped me a lot. Of course, that costs money so...ya know. Oh Scully, good luck with this. I know how it feels. It feels AWFUL and it's hard for others to understand the irrational but REAL fear that one feels. Hugs to you my friend.

  3. So sorry you are going through this--it's awful! I'm pretty sure I have always been hardwired for anxiety and I have dealt with panic attacks, though I have never fainted/passed out as a result. I internally stress out a lot (I think) and I find that my blood sugars are sometimes higher and I need more insulin to bring it down. For a while, they would stay high at work, and then as soon as I left work, they would soar was the strangest thing, but I figured it was just stress and that once I left work, my brain and body could relax a little more. I'm visiting a psych now and prob should have years ago for some of the emotional traumas I experienced in the's hard to know what to do. I think talking about it helps, meds can help, yoga and other stress-relieving activities, journaling of course...good luck my friend!

  4. Oh, Scully! I want to come scoop you up and tell you it will all be OK...wish I could offer more than that!
    I wonder if switching meds to something that has more of an impact on the anxiety would would be a process for sure because switching meds like that isn't an easy thing.

  5. Hi - I have been living with panic attacks since I was six years old - comes along with generalized anxiety disorder (formally diagnosed two years ago). In fact, I think they were just one of many contributing factors when I was diagnosed with T2 diabetes shortly before my 29th birthday (now treated with diet/exercise/metformin. All that adrenaline pumping can't be good for anyone's system in the long-term and when I'm most anxious, it is definitely difficult to deal with the high blood sugars.

    Have you sought counseling or fast-acting anxiety meds? (If you do the latter, be aware that they can make blood sugar drop like a rock - though I don't go below 60 mg/dl with my regimen. Please let me know if you need more insight - and check out the anxiety section on my blog.

  6. Big hugs to you, anxiety and diabetes are a pair of trouble-makers! I used to get bad panic attacks when I started uni, I would have to leave the too
    And my heart would pound, the walls came in, sobbing, nausea etc, but no fainting. I did gentle meds and counseling which helped. Best wishes.

  7. I don't have panic attacks, but I spent a year on Xanax for anxiety. It was the strangest thing how I could feel horrible anxiety without actually worrying about something. I finally (FINALLY) figured out that my blood sugar triggered the anxiety. Once I told the psychiatrist that, he stopped giving me the meds (which I still feel I need) and told me to wait out the waves of anxiety. It kind of sucks. If I drop or rise too fast, I feel horribly anxious. I hate it.

    I'm sorry you get the full out panic attacks...that REALLY sucks!


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