not be a surprise that high and low blood sugar levels can cause a disruption
of behaviors in adolescents’, but to what extent?. Most people have experienced
a sugar high and the crash that follows afterwards and it is not very pleasant.
Imagine being on that sugar high/low roller coaster ride all of the time like a
Type 1 diabetic. Unlike a healthy person with a working pancreas, who never has
to worry about administering and adjusting insulin, Type 1 diabetics have to
manage on their own without the pancreas help.
Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing
insulin. The pancreas’ main job is to help the body utilize glucose for energy.
Without insulin your body’s cells cannot receive the glucose, therefore, it
builds up within the bloodstream causing high blood glucose, among other
symptoms that will eventually end up as a diagnosis of Type 1. There is no
cause for Type 1 diabetes, researchers suggest it is a combination of genetics,
a virus, or an autoimmune reaction. There is also no known cure, it is managed
by insulin administration, diet, and blood glucose checks. (Handout) Uncontrolled
blood glucose can lead to multiple behavioral effects from short term like irritability
and confusion to long term mental health diagnosis such as anxiety, depression
and eating disorders.
First, high blood glucose or hyperglycemia, as its
often called, can significantly impact behavior. Most of the time it is a
temporary change in behavior. Symptoms can range from unhappiness to difficulty
focusing. (McNamara). Dr Fergus J. Cameron and colleagues had recorded parents experiences,
with their type 1 children, and often the parents stated that they could tell
if their adolescents blood glucose was high based on a significant change in
their moods. According to Cameron aggression, hyperactivity and misbehavior are
associated with high blood glucose in adolescents with type 1 diabetes. Researchers
conducted a study to back up the anecdotal reports from these parents. They
found significant affiliation between high blood glucose and negative
behaviors. The study was conducted on 42 children ages 5-10 that had been
living with diabetes for 2 or more years. Cameron states that “Externalizing behaviors
in children such as aggression, hyperactivity, disruptiveness, etc., can impact
upon family quality of life and the classroom environment and thus, our
research has implications both for parents and teachers of primary school-aged
children with diabetes.”(Sugar Levels)
Second, low blood glucose, better
known as hypoglycemia, can also cause behavioral effects on adolescents.
Behavioral symptoms of low blood glucose can range from severe mood swings to
confusion, poor coordination and irritability.(Type 1) An article written on
the website diabetes.co.uk states that low blood glucose can prevent the brain from dealing with aggressive
thoughts and feelings.(Emotional) An additional article from the same website
reads “Hypoglycemia may greatly increase your emotional response which can
make you exceptionally happy, silly, worried, frightened, paranoid or angry.
The effect can be strikingly similar to a person who is drunk.”(Effect)
With type one diabetes one can assume it would be almost impossible to have a
bad day without someone in the family assuming its related to the type 1
diabetes diagnosis. When children have long term “out of control”
blood glucose readings it can lead to long term behavior diagnosis’s.