Your Doctor May Start Screening for Anxiety. Here’s Why.


You may be screened for anxiety at your next doctor appointment, thanks to new expert guidelines released this month. 

Hopefully, your mental health is already a part of your ongoing diabetes care—after all, stress, worry and overwhelm are common experiences among people with diabetes.

However, new recommendations may make screening for anxiety even more prevalent.

What’s new

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued guidance that adults under 65 be screened for anxiety as part of primary care, including during pregnancy and postpartum care, regardless of whether the individual is showing symptoms.

This is the first recommendation of its kind related to anxiety and follows a trend of broader attention given to acute mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

The anxiety screening recommendation was announced at the same time as updated screening recommendations for depression and suicidal risk in adults. The same panel issued similar recommendations for screening children and teens earlier this year.

The task force noted the prevalence of anxiety appears to decrease with age and adults ages 65-74 years old appear to be at the lowest risk. 

Anxiety disorders are common. About 40 percent of women and 26 percent of men in the United States have experienced clinical anxiety at some point in their lives.

There’s also clear evidence that mental health worsened in the U.S. and around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anxiety can affect your diabetes health

If you live with diabetes, your primary care provider or diabetes management team should be having ongoing conversations with you about mental health, including anxiety

People with diabetes are 20 percent more likely to experience anxiety than people without diabetes. Not only is it very common in people with diabetes, but it also likely goes undiagnosed and untreated. 

Left untreated, the impact anxiety can have on a person’s diabetes health includes:

  • Diabetes burnout
  • More difficulty with nutrition
  • Poorer overall self-care 
  • Feeling overly burdened by your symptoms (blood sugar fluctuations, etc.)
  • Higher risk for developing complications (neuropathy, retinopathy, etc.)
  • Decreased physical activity levels
  • Increased likelihood of smoking
  • Difficulty with body weight management
  • Decreased overall quality of life

Diabetes and mental health care go hand-in-hand

People with diabetes experience mental health conditions at higher rates than the general population. 

In fact, people with diabetes experience depression at two- to three- times the rate of the general population. Research shows that among people with diabetes who experience anxiety, only about a third receive treatment and professional support. 

While it’s not entirely clear why this is the case, what is clear is the strong relationship between mental health and diabetes—meaning, one affects the other and vice-versa. 

Diabetes management takes a toll

Diabetes requires vigilance and attention. Maybe you are drained thinking about blood sugar levels around the clock, are scared of low blood sugars, or feel isolated and misunderstood by people around you. These aspects of living with diabetes and more can all contribute to a feeling of distress.

In fact, experts have a name for this, diabetes distress. If you haven’t heard that term, you’re still likely familiar with what it refers to—the cumulative effect of the fears and concerns that often come with managing diabetes day in and day out. 

Diabetes distress can not only affect the person living with diabetes but also family members and caregivers, which can lead to diabetes burnout.

While diabetes distress and diabetes burnout aren’t considered mental health disorders, their toll can negatively impact your mental and emotional well-being, in addition to your diabetes health. 

If you’re experiencing burnout or distress, there are resources that can help.

Talk to your health care team

If you live with diabetes, it’s all the more important to take care of your mental health. Don’t be afraid to share questions or concerns relating to anxiety, sleep issues, stress, or depression with your health care team. 

These experiences are common, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be treated—don’t ignore signs that your emotional health needs attention. 

When your health care team has a full picture of your well-being and all that you are experiencing, they can better serve you by personalizing your care.

Check out our full guide on Diabetes + Mental Health.

If you’re interested in speaking to a therapist or mental health provider, consider our guide Just Diagnosed with Diabetes? Why and How to Find Mental Health Support.

WRITTEN BY Julia Sclafani, POSTED 09/27/22, UPDATED 01/08/23

Julia Sclafani is a writer, editor and multimedia producer whose work on human rights and public health topics led her to Beyond Type 1. She received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. An award-winning journalist, Julia cut her teeth at her hometown newspaper. You can find her past work in print, on the radio and across the web.