Diabetes, Mental Illness and Age 19 = Hospitalizations But No Treatment


Diabetes and Mental Illness

I get a half dozen or more emails each week from parents who are frustrated because they can’t get adequate treatment for an adult child who has a mental disorder. Many times, their loved one has a co-occurring problem, such as a drug and/or  alcohol addiction.

I received this email from a mother whose daughter faces a different medical issue: diabetes and mental illness.
I wanted to share it with you.

Just as you wrote in your book, I too am trying to grab rings of smoke … In a very short description I will share with you my story.
I almost lost my oldest daughter at the young age of 8 years old. She was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. She is now 19. She has had multiple behavioral hospitalizations since she was in the 5th grade. From overdosing herself on insulin so she can indulge on food, to rages, and to reckless behavior, knowing how to manipulate the system, getting herself in dangerous situations (thinking….no one will hurt me…she was raped), to the inability to care for herself, etc…
She has been diagnosed with the following: Bipolar, ADHD, ODD, on the spectrum for Aspersers Syndrome.
Before she turned 18 in 2010, I could force her to check her blood sugar, take her insulin, take her medications, make her go to therapy. All she has done since she turned 18 is self-destruct and deteriorate.
It is her right to do so….according to our government’s rules…The government’s rules are no different from Dr. Kevorkian’s assisted suicide…
Since she turned 18, she has been in the hospital between 30 to 40 times.  Just since July, 20 times. She has been on death’s doorstep time- and-time again.
The ever infamous question: “Do you want to hurt yourself or someone else?” is asked. And, of course,  she’s told: ‘You’re free to go.’
When do actions speak louder than words?
I tried for two years to have her admitted to a mental health facility. I finally found out that our insurance was blocking it. It was because she had diabetes!The company’s rationale was – you must get the diabetes under control  — then the moods will be under  control. I fired back with — When a person’s behavior is out-of-control,  how do you expect them to control the diabetes?
Not long after that — a letter of approval was given.
She has been constantly DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) since the ever so famous number 18 came along.It is just a number! It doesn’t mean you are suddenly able to care for yourself.
Doctors see her time and time again.
In November, she was taken to the hospital and her body temp was 87 and unresponsive. I thought: ‘Well,  now they have to see that she can’t care for herself.’  But no…not at all.A psychiatrist originally deemed her incompetent, but because she was so belligerent, he decided he didn’t want to see her. Then two other doctors went in and deemed her competent and out the door she went.
Three weeks ago, she was DKA again. An IV could not be started because they could not find a vein. Not even in the neck or groin area. They had to start it in her bone. Once she had received enough fluids, they were able to put a PICC line in. After she was medically stable, this time she was committed to the mental health floor – for exactly one day!
I don’t know how much more her body can take. Each time she is killing her organs — her kidneys, heart, eyes, nerves, etc..
I believe one thing can change that. FORCED TREATMENT! She is much better when she is taking her medication for her mental health and has structure in her life. This is just a small part of my story. I do find in your book that I am not alone when I often feel like I am.
I will never give up. I will keep fighting… After all….What is one of the reasons people to come to America? It’s the land of opportunity! My daughter (along with thousands and thousands of others) are not being given the opportunity they deserve because the judge can’t do what needs to be done because the doctor can’t do his job because of our laws.I call it government assisted suicide.
She is a very smart girl that has much to offer the world, but trapped by a law with no gray area to protect her from herself.

After receiving this letter, I was curious about the relationship between diabetes and mental illnesses. A study that I found on the Internet concluded:

The prevalence and annual incidence density of mental illness in diabetic patients were significantly higher than in the general population. Females had higher prevalence and incidence density of mental illness among diabetic patients. Mental illness in diabetic patients was more prevalent in elderly females of low income, and less in rural areas.

If you know more about this subject, please share your knowledge. Is what this mother is facing a common problem?



About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. William Davis, MD says

    One of my readers alerted me to your post about this poor young lady’s struggles, both emotional and physical. I’ve seen this syndrome specifically, including the development of type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune disease, of course), as well as Asperger’s, binge eating, irrational behavior, etc. from exposure to wheat. Not necessarily gluten, but more likely the gliadin component of wheat. I am aware that this sounds overly simplistic, but having seen this syndrome essentially reverse substantially, if not completely, with elimination of all wheat and gluten, and having no downside except inconvenience, I am convinced that this is a terribly undiagnosed health problem. 

  2. Danaashton says

    This reminds me of a story my girlfrend told me about the town drunk who everyone mocked and who was harassed by the police.  They actually by accident somehow found out he was not drunk at all.  He suffered from Candide from too much yeast in his system due to too much sugar and fermented foods like nuts, coffee etc. in his diet.  My son is Bipolar and does binge eating and craves sugar. When he was a child he had unexplained allergic reactions.  I just wonder how much of his bipolar symptoms are caused by another orthomolecular condition.

  3. Unfortunately, I hear about this problem frequently.  If medications aren’t monitored properly, or if they’re not prescribed accurately in the first place, it becomes a really serious problem.   One that could have possibly been prevented in the first place.

  4. would you happen to know of any mental health ./ diabetes type I treatment centers that can also focus on addiction issues? Thank You, Hawaii

  5. Wrthompson86 says

    I am type one diabetic and have struggled with mental health issues. From what I know it is fairly common to see the two combined. The thing I struggle with most is how diabetes ultimately controls every aspect of my life. From a very young age I had to worry about insurance money food intake not having organ failure limbs being amputated etc. That being said insulin is a hormone and it affects energy levels and mood. Blood sugar levels that fluctuate constantly can cause anxiety and irritability. That being said it sucks but is manageable. The person has to want to deal with the diabetes and mental baggage that comes along with the ride. I’m 26 and am trying to adopt the mindset of controlling the diabetes in stead of letting it control me. I do have a friend who just gave up and refuses to take insulin at proper times. Needless to say the act of rebellion hasn’t paid off and after a horrible pregnancy and subsequent hospitalizations she still refuses. It is an ugly web of confusion ie am I anxious because my blood sugar is out of whack or is my blood sugar out of whack because I’m anxious.