Worrying about your diabetes and having hypos is completely normal because it’s an added stress to your everyday life. But for some people, this worry becomes more intense, harder to control and results in anxiety.
Hypo anxiety, also known as hypoglycemia anxiety, is when you're worried your blood glucose level (blood sugars) will go too low, usually below 4mmol/l.
Why do people worry about hypoglycaemia (hypos)
Hypos can be treated quite easily and quickly, but the effects of a hypo can be pretty frightening and uncomfortable for a lot of people. Some people also find it embarrassing if they start to show symptoms of one in public.
If you’ve had a severe hypo before, you might be worried about having another one. Especially if you’ve ended up in hospital. Some people don’t get hypos at all, because of the medication they’re on. But that can bring more worry if there’s a chance of changing medication in the future, in case hypos start.
One study found that 25% of people with diabetes reported that worrying about hypos was a serious problem for them. So you’re not alone if this is how you feel.
Running high to avoid hypos
“I was so terrified of hypos that running my blood sugar high was a way of avoiding that.”
Some people run their blood sugar levels high to prevent having hypos, especially if they’re anxious about having one. And while this might help with your anxiety at first, it’s not actually helping you manage these feelings.
Running high can increase your risk of developing complications now and in the future, so it’s not worth it in the long run. And worrying about complications can cause you even more stress.
You need to get to the root of your anxiety so you can get the right support from friends, family and your healthcare team. We know it won’t be easy, but we’re here to help.
How to manage hypo anxiety
It’s important to understand what it is about having a hypo that causes you to worry about them. This could be the actual symptoms of a hypo, like feeling disorientated or shaky. Knowing why you might be feeling worried will help you talk to people about it and get the right support.
Try learning more about hypos and why they happen. Understanding what is going on inside your body might help you stop worrying as much because you know exactly what’s happening to you.
Start logging your hypos. Are there any patterns or is there something you might be able to change in your routine?
Make a plan of options that you could take if you were to have a hypo. For example, if you’re worried about having a hypo in a work meeting, would you prefer to quietly excuse yourself from the meeting to treat it (others would probably assume you needed to use the bathroom) or would it be appropriate to take a sugary drink out of your bag to drink?
Different relaxation techniques like mindful breathing are useful techniques to help calm you down, manage your anxiety and help when you’re having a hypo.
“I learnt about using a Dexcom (continuous glucose monitor) and that I could get over my fear of having a hypo on a packed commuter tube using that nifty little machine.
"When you’re stuck on a tube and can feel your blood sugars dropping, but there’s no room to get out a blood monitor and test, it’s so much easier to have your blood available on an app or smartwatch.”
Talk to your healthcare team
If you're struggling with hypo anxiety, talking to a member of your diabetes team will really help. They will have come across it before and be able to offer you different techniques that can help you cope.
They might also suggest you see a psychologist or a counsellor if your anxiety is bad. You’ve got the right to specialist psychological support if you need it the right to ask to see a psychologist as part of your diabetes annual checks. If you do see one, they’ll be able to give you specific anxiety management strategies that work for you.
Trying talking therapies
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, offers lots of techniques that help you cope with stressful situations. It helps you identify triggers for anxiety and negative thoughts, and helps you learn to deal with them when they happen.
Most people should be able to access free CBT through your local IAPT service (England only) or you can ask your healthcare professional to help you with referral. They may also recommend an app, such as Headspace or Silvercloud, to try yourself at home and when you’re out and about. You may also find that other forms of mindfulness help with your anxiety.
Talk to other people with diabetes
Your family, friends and healthcare professionals are all there to support you, but sometimes you need to talk to other people who have diabetes and experienced the same things you are.
We can help you get in touch with others who are ready to chat through our online support forum and through our local groups who are there to offer all kinds of support.
Talk to us
We have trained counsellors on our helpline ready to help you over the phone or through webchat. Whatever your issue is, we’re here to help.