Domestic Violence, Anger, and Diabetes

Everyone has experienced “hanger” at some point—the mood swings caused by low blood sugar.

Low blood sugar can affect a person whether they have diabetes or not. For patients with diabetes, though, mood swings coupled with the anger of having a chronic disease can be tough to manage. It may be frustrating to deal with diabetes day after day for a lifetime.

Your partner's diabetes may cause you to overlook or make excuses for angry reactions, which is OK to an extent. However, anger that escalates into physical, verbal, or emotional abuse should never be tolerated. Fortunately, it is treatable. With self-care and preparation, most severe mood swings are avoidable.

This article discusses how diabetes can cause anger, how to manage mood swings, and what to do if anger turns abusive.

Mature couple having a fight
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Blood Sugar and Emotions

The fluctuating blood glucose levels that characterize poorly controlled diabetes can contribute to mood swings and lead to unpredictable or even aggressive behavior.

What's sometimes called "diabetic rage" can be dangerous, because it may involve behaviors you're not consciously aware of. When your blood sugar fluctuates, spikes, or drops, it can produce feelings of anger, anxiety, or depression. You may feel like your emotions are out of your control.

More seriously, extremes of both hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia can lead to cognitive impairment, confusion, loss of self-control, or hallucinations. These conditions should be considered a medical emergency.

When Anger Becomes Abuse

Every person has a right to get angry sometimes. But it isn't normal for someone with diabetes to erupt into anger and take it out on others.

If anger is expressed violently to hurt or scare you, then it becomes domestic abuse. Abuse can be actual physical contact, like hitting, slapping, pushing, or otherwise inflicting bodily harm. It can also be threatening or belittling you or making you feel intimidated or scared.


When diabetes causes blood sugar levels to rise or drop, it can lead to feelings like anger, anxiety, or depression. In some cases, anger can lead to physical or emotional abuse.

How to Cope With Diabetes and Anger

If you or a loved one have diabetes and experience mood swings from low blood sugar, there are ways to manage it. 

  • Eat consistently. First, and most importantly, watch your diet and always eat consistently. Experiment until you know what will quickly regulate your blood sugar. 
  • Take good care of yourself. Taking medication and eating right are essential components of controlling your blood sugar. Hormones that regulate blood sugar also regulate stress levels. When your blood sugar is off, you can become enraged or depressed. Keeping track of blood glucose levels will also help you see when anger affects you.
  • Learn to relieve emotions. Regular exercise, meditation, and yoga are excellent ways to relieve anger and stress. Try taking a walk, writing in a journal, or breathing deeply for a minute or two. Therapy to talk about your feelings may also help you manage your moods.
  • Keep “emergency” snacks on hand. Never wait too long to eat, particularly if you know anger is an issue. Snacks with quick-acting carbs can help treat a blood sugar crash.
  • Ask for help. Don't hesitate to ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a diabetes educator or nutritionist. Services are also now available to connect you to your own personal diabetes coach.
  • Consider a continuous glucose monitor. Newer technologies can make it much easier to monitor blood sugar and prevent severe fluctuations. If mood swings are an issue for you or someone you love, continuous monitoring may be the safest option.
  • Have a plan. Sudden changes in blood glucose levels can be life-threatening. Talk with your caregivers, family, and neighbors in advance, and be sure everyone knows what to do in an emergency. Calling paramedics for assistance is the safest option.


By controlling blood sugar levels, you can help manage mood swings from diabetes. Make sure to eat consistently, take your medicine, and keep emergency snacks on hand. Monitor your glucose levels and seek immediate medical help in an emergency.

When Your Partner Experiences Mood Swings

It's not your responsibility to make sure your partner consistently eats well. However, knowing the crucial role diet plays in managing mood for people with diabetes may help you understand their condition better. Don't underestimate the importance of their diet and regular mealtimes.

If your partner struggles with managing moods as a result of fluctuating blood sugar, talk to them about it. Have a plan in place for emergencies, such as calling 911 at the first sign of a mood swing or outburst. Your partner should be willing to create an emergency plan to keep you and others safe.

If you're in a relationship that's abusive, it's important to tell someone you trust: a friend, counselor, social worker, or healthcare provider. Abusive relationships are often isolated ones, where the abused partner lives in secrecy and fear. Telling others breaks the silence and enables you to more easily seek help.


If your partner has mood swings from diabetes, have an emergency plan in place. Seek help from a friend, counselor, or healthcare provider if you're in a relationship that's abusive.

Resources for Domestic Violence

If you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, seek help. Here are organizations that can provide referrals and assistance:


Fluctuating blood sugar from diabetes can lead to strong emotions, including anger. If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar can help with managing mood swings.

If your partner has diabetes and struggles with anger, make sure you have an emergency plan. This could include calling 911 at the first sign of an emotional outburst.

Seek immediate help if your partner is verbally or emotionally abusive. Reach out to a friend, social worker, or healthcare provider, or contact a domestic violence abuse hotline.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the symptoms of high blood sugar?

    Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can cause symptoms such as increased thirst or hunger, blurry vision, frequent urination, headache, and fatigue. If untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to ketoacidosis. This can cause:

    • Vomiting
    • Dehydration
    • Unusual fruity smell on your breath
    • Hyperventilation
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Confusion and disorientation
    • Coma
  • What does it feel like to have low blood sugar?

    Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can cause sweating, shakiness, fast heartbeat, and lightheadedness. You may also feel anxious or irritable. As your blood sugar continues to drop, it can lead to drowsiness, trouble concentrating, slurred speech, and blurred vision. When it becomes very severe, it can lead to seizures, coma, and, in rare cases, death.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Penckofer S, Quinn L, Byrn M, Ferrans C, Miller M, Strange P. Does glycemic variability impact mood and quality of life? Diabetes Technol Ther. 2012;14(4):303–310. doi:10.1089/dia.2011.0191

  2. Ebadi SA, Darvish P, Fard AJ, Lima BS, Ahangar OG. Hypoglycemia and cognitive function in diabetic patients. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2018;12(6):893-896. doi:10.1016/j.dsx.2018.05.011

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Hyperglycemia (High blood sugar).

  4. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).

Additional Reading

By Debra Manzella, RN
Debra Manzella, MS, RN, is a corporate clinical educator at Catholic Health System in New York with extensive experience in diabetes care.