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August 9, 1999

Behavior

Question from Port Orchard, Washington, USA:

My 3 year old granddaughter was just diagnosed one week ago with type 1 diabetes. The family has packed a lot of training and life changes into this short period of time. With many of the classic symptoms that she exhibited that alerted us to take her to the doctor the one that I as her grandmother am not getting clear answers on is her extreme mood changes. She has always been prone to extreme, and I do mean extreme, stubbornness and tantrums. Since we found out that she is diabetic it seems that the mood swings have compounded. I have been told that diabetes can have a great effect on mood swings. In a matter of moments she can change from a calm intelligent child into a screaming, throwing things out of control child. The last time that I experienced this her sugar levels were over 200, from what I understand somewhat high. This is always talked with to her doctor and insulin adjusted. I have not seen the after effects of the glassy eyes and feeling lethargic. Is this a common behavior with diabetes? Will it get better with time and balance of her medications? I find that we all are saying she can't help this and letting her do, say and act out as she wishes with the hopes that this will go away in time. My only concern is that the whole needs of my granddaughter are understood so that we may address all the needs of her illness, medically and emotionally.

Answer:

Blood sugar swings can impact mood. Having said that, your question states that this child has pretty much always been prone to mood swings; so it is tough to tie it to the diabetes.

Children can be manipulative: even the best of kids. If your grandchild senses that the adults around her can be “trained” to cater to her when she acts out (because of the new diagnosis) then she will continue to test the limits. If, however, the behavior results in a blood sugar test to assess if she is low or high, that would be a less desirable payoff.

What I am trying to say is that I know you want to understand all you can, but, you need time. Trust your instincts that tell you if her behavior is designed to “hook” you or is a result of her blood sugar levels. You need to actually see her in a hypoglycemic episode to know the difference.

Be as educated as possible. Search this website for answers and ask other relatives of kids with diabetes about their experiences. You sound like a great grandma!

CMB