The Emotional Effects of Diabetic Nerve Pain

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 07, 2021

When you live with nerve pain from peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes, it's normal to feel down sometimes. You'll probably have to deal with fear, anger, denial, disappointment, guilt, or loneliness.

But there’s room for hope, because the right treatment and lifestyle changes can bring you relief.

Talk to Your Medical Team

Your doctor may prescribe medications that treat depression. These drugs can pull double duty, easing the physical pain and its emotional effects.

Talk with your diabetes doctors before you take this kind of drug, though. Some of these meds can cause weight gain, which could make it harder to control your blood sugar.

Also consider trying psychotherapy if you're diagnosed with depression. Talking with a therapist will let you sort out problems or events in your life that may have led to depression. This can help you solve problems, regain a sense of control over your life, and help you enjoy it again.

Techniques to Try

Here are more ways to handle the emotions related to your diabetes and nerve pain:

  • Learn how to relax. Try deep breathing and other relaxation techniques like meditation.
  • Set reachable goals. Don't try to overdo things on good days. Learn to pace yourself.
  • Don't put yourself down. If you do, just notice that you're being harsh, and think of something positive about yourself instead.
  • Make time for de-stressing. You need exercise and relaxation every day.
  • Join a chronic pain support group. It often helps to share your feelings.
  • Don't drink alcohol. Pain often disrupts sleep. So does alcohol.
  • Quit smoking. Research shows that smokers are at higher risk for pain in general. Also, smoking worsens peripheral neuropathy.

Find a Support Group

The American Pain Society and the National Pain Foundation both offer local support groups in many areas.

You can meet people facing the same challenges as you. Plus, you can learn what pain-relieving tricks work for them. For example, some people say wearing socks to bed can help. You can also ask them if they've taken medications that have helped.

Open Up to Your Partner

If you're in a relationship, be candid with your partner. Discuss any fears you have about intimacy, be it fear of rejection, or pain from sex. Also discuss what's good, and be frank about what you need.

Make time to be by yourselves, too. Take a bath together, go for a walk, or just hold each other in bed. If you're having sexual problems, consider seeing a counselor or sex therapist.

Show Sources

Christopher Gibbons, MD, director of the Neuropathy Clinic at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and instructor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. 

Palmer, K.T. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, January 2003. 

WebMD Medical Reference: "Pain Management: Chronic Pain and Depression." WebMD Medical Reference: "Pain Management: Maintaining Intimacy." WebMD Medical Reference: "Living with Chronic Pain."

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