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Diabetic Rage: Can Diabetes Cause Aggressive Behavior?

Diabetic rage and aggressive behavior are real. Diabetes can be hard to live with. Frustration and irritability are common. These are normal human emotions, especially in the face of living with a serious and difficult disease like diabetes. There is a darker side to diabetes, though: diabetic rage. It’s frightening and dangerous. This look at diabetic rage and aggressive behavior can help you understand what’s happening to you or a loved one and learn what to do about it.

Diabetic Rage: Why it Happens

Two primary factors are responsible for diabetic rage and aggression: psychological and physiological.

The psychological components of diabetic rage come from the stress of living with this disease. Feelings of frustration and resentment, a sense of “why me,” are common. Fear and uncertainty about health and lifestyle limitations can loom large. Then there’s the overwhelming nature of diabetes treatment and management that can create emotions ranging from annoyance to infuriation ("Does Diabetes Cause Mood Swings?").

Psychologically, perspective plays a big role in diabetic rage. The more a person remains stuck in the resentments and anger of having to live with diabetes, the more he or she is vulnerable to becoming aggressive.

Mindset and stress contribute to diabetic rage and aggressive behavior, but they don’t work alone. Numerous physical functions underlie the violent nature of diabetes.

The driving force behind diabetes-related problems in brain functioning is glucose. The brain needs proper levels of glucose (sugar) to operate. When blood sugar levels are above 140 mg/dL (hyperglycemia) or below 70 mg/dL (hypoglycemia), the brain suffers. Things can go wrong, too, when blood sugar levels spike and drop frequently. Incorrect or fluctuating glucose levels can cause damage and lead to such things as:

  • Increased production and secretion of the stress hormone cortisol

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Damage to the amygdala (the structure responsible for cortisol secretion and the fight-or-flight response)

  • Damage to the thalamus (the structure responsible for things like self-control)

  • A decrease in the functioning of the blood vessels in the brain

These psychological and physiological factors involved in rage and aggression are part of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Likewise, the behaviors apply to both types of diabetes.

What Diabetic Rage and Aggressive Behavior are Like

Feeling furious is normal. Problems arise when anger intensifies and is projected outward. Diabetic rage symptoms are intense and often frightening. While there are individual differences in the way people act when they’re enraged, watch for these general signs of diabetic rage:

  • Delusional beliefs that someone is trying to hurt you, making you lose self-control and lash out

  • Intensifying agitation

  • Hitting or slapping

  • Shoving

  • Yelling

  • Grabbing

  • Threatening

  • Belittling

  • Intimidating

  • Impulsivity

  • Destruction

  • Temper tantrums

Diabetic rage can lead to violence against property and people. There are ways to deal with this diabetic rage to prevent it from recurring even though diabetes itself is permanent.

What To Do About Diabetic Rage

Dealing with diabetic rage involves immediate treatment to stop aggressive behavior and long-term management techniques to prevent future episodes. Because improper glucose levels are behind diabetic rages, it’s important to return blood sugar to the healthy range (between 70 mg/dL and 140 mg/dL). Testing blood sugar often will help you know when to treat your glucose levels.

Once you test your blood sugar, you can take measures to return it to normal. This involves eating or drinking something to raise or lower your numbers. If you have hypoglycemia, have a bit of food with a high glycemic index (GI) such as sugar, sugar-sweetened drinks, or even glucose tablets. If you have hyperglycemia and need to lower your number, eat something with a low GI, such as a hard-boiled egg, or cheese.

Treating your blood glucose levels in the moment will return your functioning to normal and decrease the hostile feelings and aggressive behavior. You can prevent future hostility by treating aggression and anger problems in general.

Self-care is crucial. Following your diabetes treatment plan by monitoring your blood glucose, taking your medication, eating well, and exercising will help keep blood glucose levels stable and your temper even.

Dealing with feelings of anger and resentment will help you feel more satisfied with life and less aggressive.

Taking anger management classes or counseling, in person or online, will give you strategies to deal positively with anger. Support groups are helpful for many people trying to manage diabetic rage. Also, keeping a journal to track your angry feelings and aggressive behavior will help you see patterns, notice anger building, and take measures to reduce feelings of hostility.

Developing a collection of calming strategies can help. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, drawing, coloring, or listening to or playing music can help induce calm and replace anger with engagement in a pleasant activity.

Anger is indeed a natural psychological and physical response to diabetes. With awareness and treatment, diabetic rage and aggressive behavior can be treated and managed so they don’t hurt anyone.

Credits: The original article was written by Tanja J. Peterson and published Healthy Place

Last updated: January 12, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD


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