diabetes distress, depression, woman holding head in hand

Diabetes Distress: What You Should Know

Diabetes distress (DD) is a common occurrence in those with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. At least 30 to 40 percent of people with diabetes will experience noticeable diabetes distress at some point. DD includes the anxieties and worries of dealing with diabetes on a daily basis. Distress can also affect family members and close friends of the person with diabetes. 

Distress vs. depression

The important thing to note is that diabetes distress is not the same thing as clinical depression, and as such should be treated differently. With diabetes distress, it’s important to recognize the emotions you are feeling and to get help and education from friends and loved ones so the burden is not all on you. 


When distress might occur

Periods in which your chances for experiencing diabetes distress are higher are:

  • Right when you are diagnosed
  • When you first start to experience a complication
  • When you add a new medication or change medications
  • When you switch to a new doctor

Researchers have developed Diabetes Distress Scales that can measure the level of distress of people with type 1, type 2, and their family members and caregivers. These scales can aid medical professionals in counseling people and helping them understand their feelings in coping with their new lifestyle. 

Factors of diabetes distress

Many factors can contribute to diabetes distress. These factors include:

  • The feeling of powerlessness
  • Worrying what others will think
  • Not feeling like you have the right support system or caregivers who are listening to you
  • Trouble dealing with friends and loved ones
  • Worry about severe hypos or hyperglycemia
  • Fear of complications
  • Tired of the mental and physical effort required to manage diabetes
  • Not feeling like you are doing a good enough job eating well and managing diabetes
  • Worry about the costs of your medications 

What you can do

If you can, seek out a doctor and care team who are encouraging, who understand the emotional side of diabetes, and who will help you with that aspect of your condition. If it turns out you do have depression, your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional and a counselor. To get in the right frame of mind, start with small goals and make a step-by-step plan to better health. And remember that as long as your diabetes is under control, you shouldn’t worry too much about complications that could arise. DiaTribe offers these positive ways to reframe your negative questions about diabetes into positive ones.