Type 2 diabetes and mental illness

Having severe mental illness can mean you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. This page explains about the symptoms, signs, causes and treatments for type 2 diabetes. It also explains how to reduce risk. This information is for anyone who lives with mental illness and diabetes. And their carers, relatives and friends.

What is diabetes?

Your body takes carbohydrates in food and converts them to glucose to be used for energy or fuel. Glucose is a simple sugar. Examples of foods that contain carbohydrates are.

  • Breads, grains, and pasta.
  • Nuts.
  • Starchy vegetables, like potatoes.
  • Milk and yogurts.
  • Fruits.
  • Snack foods, like chocolate or sweets.

If you have diabetes the level of sugar in your blood is too high. This is because your body can’t use it properly and it builds up in your blood.

There are different types of diabetes. The 2 most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 2 diabetes affects about 9 out of 10 people who are diagnosed with diabetes.

We look at type 2 diabetes on this page. This is because it’s the kind of diabetes you are more likely to develop if you live with severe mental illness.

You can click on the following link if you want to know more about type 1 diabetes: www.diabetes.org.uk/type-1-diabetes

What are the signs of diabetes?

Signs that you might have diabetes include.

  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night.
  • Being thirstier than normal.
  • Being extremely tired.
  • Losing weight for no obvious reason.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Frequent thrush infections.
  • Wounds that take longer to heal or don’t heal properly.
  • Blurred eyesight.
  • Being hungrier than normal.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

You are more likely to have type 2 diabetes if you.

  • Live with severe mental illness.
  • Are overweight.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Have previously had a heart attack or stroke.
  • Are taking antipsychotic medication.

You can find more information about ‘Antipsychotics’ by clicking here.

How can I reduce my chance of getting type 2 diabetes?

To reduce your chance of getting type 2 diabetes you can try to:

  • maintain a healthy weight, and
  • keep a healthy blood pressure.

For tips on how to do this, please visit the following pages:

Some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes aren’t in your control. Things like your ethnicity and age can play a part. And if other members of your family live with it too.

Type 1 diabetes is different to type 2. Diabetes UK say they’re still not sure what causes type 1 diabetes to develop. It’s got nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. But researchers and scientists are trying to find answers.

Should I get a test for diabetes?

If you have a physical health check your GP or nurse should check your blood sugar levels. You can find out more about getting a free NHS health check by asking your GP or clicking on this link: www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-health-check/nhs-health-check

If you’re showing the signs of possible diabetes, then you can book an appointment with your GP surgery to have a diabetes check.

You can sometimes get appointments in pharmacies to be screened for risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Some pharmacists also offer blood tests to diagnose diabetes, but you might have to pay for this service.

How is type 2 diabetes treated?

Diabetes can’t be cured but some people can:

  • put it into remission, or
  • manage it well.

To help manage type 2 diabetes you can:

  • maintain a healthy weight,
  • eat healthily,
  • keep active,
  • avoid or reduce smoking,
  • avoid or limit alcohol intake.

Eventually most people with type 2 diabetes will need medication to control their condition.

Useful contacts

Diabetes UK
Whether you're looking for diabetes information, or just someone to talk to, Diabetes UK are there to help you. Includes a helpline, local support groups, events, an online learning zone, and insurance.

Helpline: 0345 123 2399
Live chat: www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/contact_us
Address: Wells Lawrence House 126 Back Church Lane London E1 1FH
Email: helpline@diabetes.org.uk
Website: www.diabetes.org.uk


© Rethink Mental Illness 2021

Last updated Oct 2021
Next update Oct 2024
Version number 2

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