Are moods and blood glucose in children related?

Daniel Sher explores the mechanisms behind the relationship of moods and blood glucose and offers practical advice for parents and caregivers to better support their children.

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The interplay between mood and blood glucose in children with diabetes involves a complex relationship where physical health significantly influences emotional well-being and vice versa. This connection reminds us that we need to focus on more than just blood glucose management when it comes to diabetes, we also need to pay attention to the emotional side of this condition. 

Understanding blood glucose dynamics

Blood glucose is essential for the body’s cells and critical for brain function. In children with diabetes, the body’s inability to effectively regulate blood glucose can lead to significant mood and behavioural effects. Hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose) and hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) can manifest various psychological symptoms that impact a child’s daily life.

For example, hyperglycaemia can cause symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. These can disrupt a child’s ability to engage in academic and social activities, potentially leading to frustration and lowered self-esteem.

Hypoglycaemia on the other hand, can lead to symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, irritability, and even severe outcomes like seizures. The acute nature of hypoglycaemia can induce significant anxiety and mood swings, affecting not only the child but also those around them.

Psychological impacts

Managing diabetes demands ongoing attention and adjustment, which can put a substantial mental burden on a child. The stress of constant monitoring and treatment can lead to psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, which can further complicate mood regulation. Diabetes distress, or burnout, can also hold a child and their family back when it comes to living a happy and healthy life with this condition.

Social challenges may also become evident. The visible aspects of diabetes management (such as technology, testing and taking insulin) can make children feel self-conscious and different, which can impact their social interactions and emotional well-being.

The bidirectional relationship

Mood and blood glucose levels influence each other in a bidirectional manner. Stress and emotional distress can lead to hormonal imbalances that may disrupt diabetes management, while unstable blood glucose levels can cause mood swings. Understanding this reciprocal relationship is crucial for effective management of diabetes in children.

How can we help kids cope?

Educational and supportive strategies

Education is crucial. Parents and children need to understand how diabetes can affect emotional health. Recognising the signs of blood glucose fluctuations and their emotional effects is the first step toward effective management. 

Holistic care approach

Management strategies should incorporate both medical and psychological support. Regular consultations with healthcare providers who understand the dual nature of diabetes care are essential. 

Establishing routine

Consistency in daily routines helps stabilise blood glucose and mood. Regular monitoring and timely adjustments in diet and medication are key to maintaining balance.

Open communication

Encouraging children to express their feelings about diabetes and its challenges is so important. Support from counsellors or participation in support groups can provide children with coping mechanisms and a sense of community. 

Inclusive and active lifestyle

Activities that integrate children with diabetes into wider social groups can enhance their self-esteem and emotional health. Physical activity not only helps in regulating blood glucose but also boosts mood through the release of endorphins.

Family engagement

Involving the entire family in diabetes care helps normalise the condition and reduces the emotional burden on the child. Shared meal planning and group activities can foster a supportive environment.

Comprehensive care

The relationship between mood and blood glucose in children with diabetes is central to overall health. By addressing both the emotional and physical aspects, caregivers can provide more effective support, enhancing both the child’s quality of life and their diabetes management.

Understanding and intervening in this bidirectional relationship is key to helping children manage their condition while maintaining a positive outlook on life. Comprehensive care not only stabilises blood glucose but also significantly improves mental health, offering a brighter and healthier future for children with diabetes.


Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 28 years. He practices from Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town where he works with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to help them thrive. Visit

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