Can You Get Diabetes from Stress?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

I recently had a death in the family and my work life is far from ideal. In short, I'm under a ton of stress. I don't have the time or the energy to make major lifestyle changes right now. I've got diabetes that runs in my family, and I wonder, does stress cause diabetes?

Doctor’s Response

Psychological stress is not a direct cause of diabetes, but stress can cause fluctuations of blood sugar in people with diabetes.

There is now evidence that points to abnormal stress responses as causing or contributing to various diseases or conditions. These include anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse. Stress can affect virtually any organ system, being associated with conditions as diverse as skin rashes or hives, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, certain gastrointestinal diseases, some cancers, and even the process of aging itself. Stress also seems to increase the frequency and severity of migraine headaches and episodes of asthma. There also is scientific evidence showing that people experiencing psychological stress are more prone to developing colds and other infections than their less-stressed peers. Overwhelming psychological stress (also called trauma) can cause both temporary (transient) and long-lasting (chronic) symptoms of a serious psychiatric illness called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are not as well understood as those for type 2 diabetes. Family history is a known risk factor for type 1 diabetes. Other risk factors can include having certain infections or diseases of the pancreas.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are many. The following can raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

For more information, read our full medical article on stress.

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REFERENCES:

American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Basics.
<http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics>

CDC.gov. Diabetes Public Health Resource.
<http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes>

CDC.gov. "2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report. 2012.
<http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics/2014statisticsreport.html>

Khardori, R., MD. "Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus." Medscape. Oct 08, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/117853-overview>

Chiesa, A., and A. Serretti. "Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis." Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine 15.5 May 2009: 593-600.

Chrousos, George P. "Stress and Disorders of the Stress System." Medscape.com. <https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/704866>.

Gore, T. Allen. "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder." Medscape. Mar. 7, 2018. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/288154-overview>.

Lowry, Fran. "Stress, Depression Linked to Accelerated Aging." Medscape.com. Mar. 1, 2012. <https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/759510>.

"Stress." American Psychological Association. <http://www.apa.org/topics/stress/index.aspx>.

United States. National Institute of Mental Health. "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder." Feb. 2016. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml>.

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Reviewed on 5/9/2018