Bipolar and Diabetes: the unknown connection

Did you know that bipolar disorder and diabetes have a connection? This is not very common knowledge. However, it is important to know and understand, especially if there is a history of mental health issues in your family.

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness. This illness causes changes in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.  Bipolar disorder involves two very different types of events -- depressive and manic episodes.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder: 

Depressive Symptoms: 

Manic Symptoms:

  • Feeling sad, down, empty, or hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetting things, a lot
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Feeling tired or “slowed down”
  • Thinking about death or suicide
  • Having little energy
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Trouble sleeping, too little or too much
  • Feeling like you can’t enjoy anything
  • Feeling worried and empty
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Talking really fast about a lot of different things
  • Feeling irritable or “touchy”
  • Thoughts going very fast
  • Spending a lot of money or having reckless sex
  • Feeling very “up or” “high”
  • Having a lot of energy
  • Having increased activity levels
  • Feeling “jumpy” or “wired

What should you do if you have any of these symptoms?
Everyone has mood swings and for different reasons. But if you feel like you are experiencing extreme symptoms as those listed above, talk with a doctor or other licensed mental health professional.

A doctor may do the following:

  • Refer you to a different trained mental health professional, like a psychiatrist.
  • Have a physical exam or mental health exam to see if there are other likely causes.
  • Tell you about different treatment options.

You are not alone!
Bipolar is a very common disorder.  The National Institute of Mental Health found the following:

  • The same number of men and women develop bipolar illness, and it is found in all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes.
  • Bipolar disorder impacts 5.7 million adults, age 18 and older, each year.

Proper diagnosis, treatment, and medication as prescribed can lead to more healthy and productive lives.

Why does having bipolar disorder increase my chances for developing Type 2 diabetes?
Certain medications that are prescribed to people with bipolar disorder can cause weight gain as a side effect, often leading to individuals becoming overweight or obese. If individuals find that diabetes runs in their family, being overweight can lead to type 2 diabetes. People with bipolar disorder are three times more likely to develop diabetes than those without the disorder. 

Being obese can often lead to a metabolic syndrome and can have these serious health risks:

  • Excess fat around the waist
  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol

People who carry extra weight and body fat, especially around the stomach, have a harder time managing their blood sugar. With the ups and downs that may come with bipolar disorder, managing blood sugar levels can take a back seat in caring for yourself.

Talk to your doctor if you are noticing weight gain when taking bipolar medications. Because of this, your doctor may want to keep an eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

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