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emotional toll of diabetes

The Emotional Impact of Diabetes – What You Can Do to Take Control

When you are diagnosed with diabetes, you can go through stage of grief for the loss of the life you used to lead. People with diabetes experience the emotions of anger, denial, burnout, depression, anxiety, and some even struggle with eating disorders related to managing the disease.

Having diabetes is a major change in your daily life and can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. More and more researchers have discovered the importance of recognizing and naming the emotional aspects of diabetes, and taking steps to treat them.

You are not alone, though it may sometimes seem you are alone in your diagnosis. New research finds that emotional and physical health are inextricably linked. In the general population, 5% of people experience depression, while in diabetics the percentage is 15-20%, and even higher in diabetics with complications.

The Vicious Cycle

When you are very stressed out, it can lead to not taking care of yourself and your diabetes, which can in turn result in poor glycemic control and cause you to be in worse health. Stress can also cause blood sugar highs and mental and physical fatigue. Anxiety and depression can also lead to seeking escape through overeating, drinking, and other destructive behaviors, again worsening diabetes.

Remember that blood sugar spikes are not always your fault, but can be the result of over 20 different factors. So don’t be down on yourself when you are having trouble with your diabetes.

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The Need for Global Guidelines

The American Diabetes Association has released psychosocial recommendations and guidelines, but there are no global guidelines for monitoring mental health in diabetes.

While there are new apps on them market for logging your moods, physical activity,  medications and more, there lacks the next step to actually putting this information into action. There is a new tool call eMindLog where you can track your own mental state. This can be used in conjunction with seeing a doctor to see if you need to be referred to a mental health expert. If you take antidepressants, however, note that some can cause hypoglycemia, which can be dangerous for someone with T2D.

Diabetes UK Survey

You may feel it can be hard in the workplace, where people might not be knowledgeable or understanding about you diabetes. A survey of 8,500 people by Diabetes UK found that 3 out of 5 said their diabetes made them feel down. Sixteen percent felt discriminated against at work.

One woman in the UK recently quit her job due to the stress it was causing her. She encountered a “lack of understanding,” was constantly undermined, and her employers never talked to her about her condition. She says diabetes “is not a dirty secret – it’s part of my life.” More recognition and awareness surrounding the daily life of a diabetic needs to happen in order for situations like this to be a thing of the past.

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Steps to Take Control

Over time, there should be more awareness globally of the emotional aspects of diabetes. In the meantime, here are some practical steps you can take to manage the emotional toll of diabetes:

  1. Seek therapy.
  2. Seek a Certified Diabetes Educator.
  3. Join a support group.
  4. Talk to friends and family.
  5. Set reminders for taking your medications, and take them regularly as prescribed.
  6. Accept your emotions and name them.
  7. Accept your condition.
  8. Take control of your situation by getting help.
  9. See a functional medicine doctor to get your hormone levels checked.
  10. Practice mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and doing things you love.
  11. Keep track of foods that make you feel bad or spike blood sugar, and avoid them.

Related Links

Diabetes and Depression: 9 Possible Connections

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

The Power of Words in Diabetes