Many people with diabetes are anxious or worry a lot about hypoglycemia. In one study, 25% of people with diabetes reported anxiety about hypoglycaemia is a serious problem for them.

Hypoglycemia, or a ‘hypo’ as it is commonly known, is a frequent occurrence among many people with diabetes, both for those with type 1 and type 2.

So why do people worry about hypoglycemia, particularly when, in most cases, they can be treated with relative speed and ease by eating a sugary snack? Well, it’s often because the effects of a hypo can be frightening, embarrassing, uncomfortable, unpleasant and, in their worst cases, fatal.

Getting sweaty, having slurred speech, shaking uncontrollably, or being confused may not seem too bad in the whole scheme of things, but having them occur in a job interview or important work meeting, whilst driving home at night, or on a romantic date may not be so pleasant!

Having just one episode of hypoglycemia that was unpleasant can lead to increased anxiety of it happening again.

This can lead to other behaviours, which may lead to further difficulties with managing diabetes.

  • Running blood sugars high to avoid hypoglycemia.
  • Eating more than needed to keep blood glucose levels elevated.
  • Restricting activities such as driving, exercising, travelling on public transport etc.

In addition to a particularly bad experience of hypoglycemia, three further factors may contribute to excessive worry.

  • You may be experiencing a weakened ability to feel the warning signs of hypoglycemia.
  • The warning signs of hypoglycemia, such as sweating and shaking, occur because of the associated release of the body’s stress related hormones, epinephrine. However, for some people with diabetes, their warning signs are less obvious, and so by the time they do notice the problem, their blood glucose level has dropped so low that taking reparative action becomes even harder. This is known as reduced hypo awareness.
  • You may not be able to distinguish the feelings of hypoglycemia from the feelings of fear.

Many symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as sweatiness or an increased heart rate are the same as signs you would experience if you were fearful. This may lead to a spiral of confusion.

  • You may notice your heart beating a little faster.
  • You may think, “This could be hypoglycemia”.
  • This makes you nervous, so your heart therefore beats even faster.
  • Thinking, “Oh no, this is a symptom of hypoglycemia”.
  • You feel even more nervous and reach for a snack to raise your blood sugar levels.

When actually what you really were experiencing was nervousness! Next issue, I’ll teach you my top five strategies for helping you overcome your difficulties with hypoglycemia. In the meantime, if you are in any doubt, always test your blood glucose levels. To share your experiences and gain support, do visit us on Facebook, we’d love to hear from you!

You may use this article on your website, or for your own e-zine; however, there’s one thing you MUST include: Dr. Jen Nash is a Clinical Psychologist registered with the British Psychological Society. Dr. Jen helps her clients find solutions with simple and highly-effective psychological strategies to gain freedom from the frustration and stress of living with diabetes. To sign up for her free Diabetes Diary, visit www.PositiveDiabetes.com.