New diagnosis teen having hypoglycemic anxiety attacks

My son has been diagnosed with type 1 for 4 months. We have made it through the honeymoon stage we think. Now he is having panic attacks worrying he is going to go low. During the attacks he says he feels light headed. Our Dr said this is normal for new diagnoses. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Hello @Poelarexpress Vance, welcome to TypeOneNation. One problem here is that low blood sugar feels like an anxiety attack. Get into the habit of checking blood sugar when you feel that way. I sometimes feel hypoglycemic when my blood sugar is normal but dropping so you may have to test and then test again.

Hope you are getting all the support you need.

Thanks for replying Joe. I don’t understand why he feels low when his blood is high or normal.

@Poelarexpress Vince, a real anxiety attack is brought on by dread or the mind imagining that something bad or unpleasant is about to happen. It is associated with post traumatic stress disorder. The hormones released make your heart race, your breathing fast. It makes your blood pressure go up and you start sweating. These are the same symptoms as low blood sugar. it’s important to know if it’s a low and he needs to raise blood sugar or if it’s anxiety.

Sugar helps a low, therapy and understanding helps the anxiety.

Fear of low blood sugar is common for people. Some people are so afraid that the don’t take enough insulin. Frequent testing and repetition help with that most of the time. Some people use a CGM which can give you continuous feedback and early warning alarms.

When combined with pumping, some CGM can stop insulin if you are in danger of going low. These are all tools he can use if he’s interested.

Try to work with a diabetes educator for good strategies, everyone with type 1 has to deal with this.

I was diagnosed at 13, and had occasional hypoglycemic incidents (we just called them “insulin reactions” back in the early '70s). Your teen should be carrying a BG meter and a tube of glucose tablets at all times (most drug stores have these). If they think their BG is going low, they can test to confirm and, if necessary, take three tablets and that should handle things within a few minutes. In my day, I would wrap eight sugar cubes in layers of foil and carry that in my pocket against reactions, but the tablets seem to work faster (and the tubes won’t break like the foil did). Eventually–probably sooner than later–your teen will begin to understand what a true low feels like, and they’ll be able to catch it even without testing. It might be light-headedness; for me it was the kind of sudden exhaustion/tingle that I had previously felt after a strenuous hike. But they’ll likely get it. Testing BG and carrying glucose, though, is the best way to handle the situation.

Hi, Vance @Poelarexpress,

So, please give us a bit more information. How old is your son? And, what has he been told (or otherwise heard) that might contribute to his “panic”? Has he had opportunity to visit with other people his age who have Type 1?

@joe gave you some good things to think about. To reinforce what he said, when a person’s blood glucose level begins to decline, her/his body will release epinephrine/norepinephrine to attempt to counteract the decline. As you know, epinephrine (adrenaline) is the same hormone our body releases when we are startled, or are otherwise “in fear.” So a downward trending blood glucose level can lead to a sense of panic and/or anxiety because of the epinephrine that is released into the system. The anxious reaction tends to be more-pronounced when the blood glucose level is dropping rapidly. As Joe said, it is not the actual blood glucose level that causes the release of epinephrine - it is the rapidity of the decline.

But you didn’t associate your son’s “panic attacks” with low blood glucose levels, or with evidence that his blood glucose level was falling. If that is the case, it would appear that something has him worried about the potential that a hypoglycemic episode could cause him harm. Well, to tell you the truth, that’s a “reasonable” fear, but you don’t want it to become “debilitating.” So how do you keep that from happening?

Joe and others have offered some very practical steps to take. A glucose meter in his backpack, tubes of instant glucose (IMHO, much better than glucose tablets for several reasons), and keeping a blood glucose “diary” (so he can begin to understand “trends”). But the things that will work for a youngster of one age (say, a teenager) will be “too much” for a five-year-old to master. So the interventions that might work for your son’s “panic attacks” will depend on how old he is, and how adept he is at mastering diabetes management strategies. Make sense?

Please give us a little more information and then we can “tailor” our replies so they might be more appropriate to your (and your son’s) needs.

Best of luck to all of you!


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I understand big time. I have irrational fears due to T1D. Some obsessive compulsive things too!!
The honeymoon stage… I think it lasts way longer than the drs think. I’m T1D for about 5 yrs now.

Using a CGM, was a godsend to me. Still is. I use the Dexcom G5, it also has a share app for up to 5 people. Very cool. The share part works even if your hundreds of miles apart. I live TN and my wife went to Connecticut, even tho they had a blizzard, she got my info. Very cool!

But to your son, your gonna drop low! Just don’t panic! Eat / drink what you have to. Once your sugar goes up. It’s all cool again. Helpful tips. I have a 6 pk cooler with stuff I need in it. A Pepsi, water, candy bars, more insulin pens, needles, test strips, my meter with insulin pens and my log to write down my readings. I also have spare parts for my G5 from Dexcom.
I carry it with me. I just got a patch put on it diabetic supplies.

If worried at nite, put your favorite go to stuff in a basket. Mine has candy, raisins, chocolate bars etc, in it. Nobody can touch it or move it. I’m talking one inch and I freak out. It is in a central location in the house. If I need something I know where it’s at at all times. My wife keeps it full, but can’t move it. I can find it in the dark if I need to.

It helps keep me sane and allows other people to be able to live with me. I can be a biiiiiiiggggg time butthead when I drop. Look just tell your parents what scares you and why. That’s scary enough, I know, but work with them to find solutions to the fears. Little things will make you feel better.
Once you address those things and have a plan in place it helps to calm you down. The fear hasn’t gone away for me either. Don’t know if it ever will. But I can’t let it control me. Hey I’m still the DAD. You might not be making sense to them or to yourself either with the anxiety, but just tell them about and work your way around it. The hardest part for me was saying I need help with this. Once you do, it helps. But they have to respect you too! They have to understand that it really bothers you and you might not be able to tell them why. Heck you may not even know why. It’s called an irrational fear right.?! But if they trust you and you trust them to keep the compromise about the fear(s). Yeah there may be more than one show up for no reason. You’ll get through it without too much stress on the whole family.

I know it doesn’t seem that it will work out, but it will. Hey lows scare me too! Their a pain in the butt for me. I get started doing something, my alarm goes off. I’m watching a good movie, my alarm goes off. I’m sleeping, my alarm goes off. I get mad and have the drop freaking me out all at once. I don’t care bout nothin or nobody till I get the sugar up. I’m a realA$$hole too! It also makes me mad that I’m not in control of myself, scares me too! But after 3 to 5 drops a day for 5 yrs. it gets old real fast. But you gotta go through em. There is no choice! You can do it, but it takes practice. For you and your family! Once you drop , you gotta get it back up. But it don’t help if your mom or your wife, or your dad ar anybody else keeps asking if your OK. You’ll talk when your back in the drivers seat. But it don’t help if your a major butt head either. Just gotta learn to calm down, get what you need, do it and wait 5, 10, 15 min to get back some control over things.

Hope my experience helps!! None of this is perfect, doesn’t always work, but ya gotta try, you have to live somewhere and your moms never gonna go for you living on an island. Your dad might, but being that alone for to long warps ya, so… what choice have ya got?
Good luvck! If ya need to talk let me know. I’ll do what I can

I have been diagnosed for almost 4 months now, and I am constantly shaking it never really stops, doesn’t matter how high, or low I go. I think its just normal. Stress makes me shake more, but I’m always shaking. I get used to it so I never can really tell when I’m low anymore.