By Kerri Sparling
The physical tasks related to diabetes management are easy to list: check your blood sugar, take your insulin, be mindful of your diet, and make sure you exercise regularly. The emotional burden, however, is rarely discussed, even though diabetes can bring about a lot difficult emotions. And these mental moments can have an effect on your diabetes health.
Sometimes an out-of-range blood sugar reading can make a person with diabetes feel defeated, angry, or distressed. Thinking about diabetes-related complications can feel overwhelming and upsetting. Distress over diabetes can make the to-do list of diabetes management too challenging to tackle. Addressing these responses can be as important as taking your insulin.
The ties between diabetes and emotional well-being can’t be ignored. In 2016, the American Diabetes Association released a position paper entitled “Psychosocial Care for People with Diabetes” that highlighted the importance of managing mental and emotional health alongside physical health.
“Diabetes is unique in that it is a disease that is managed on a daily basis by the person who has diabetes, and this can lead to increased stress,” says Alicia McAuliffe-Fogarty, PhD, clinical health psychologist and vice president of the lifestyle management team at the American Diabetes Association. In a 2016 press release, she said, “People with diabetes have a greater risk of depression and anxiety, and while medical providers are trained to help people manage the medical aspects of their disease, they are not always taught to understand the impact [of] psychosocial factors….”
So how can you take care of your emotional health as well as your physical health?
Build your support network.
Even if you’re feeling emotionally fit and ready to manage everything diabetes throws your way, it’s smart to build a support network to help when you need it most. Have a mental health professional as part of your medical team, find local support groups to connect you with your PWD (person with diabetes) peers, and let your friends and family know that they’re part of your care team, as well.
Consider peer-to-peer support.
Thanks to the Internet, there are dozens of diabetes resources that can provide support from your peers. These peer connections can help you feel less alone and give you some powerful “me, too” moments. Connecting with your “like-pancreased” peers can provide feelings of empowerment and inspiration that can help boost your mood.
Talk to your insurance company about which services are covered.
Many insurance companies cover mental health visits, so be sure to check with your insurance company for a list of what is covered, and which providers are part of your preferred network. Having this information handy can help make asking for assistance easier, especially if cost is a concern.
Ask for help when you need it.
If life with diabetes feels overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. You are not alone. Whether you need to talk with a friend or consult with a medical professional, reach out for help and support whenever you need it. Improved emotional health can contribute to improved physical health outcomes, so embrace the resources available to you when you need them.
Kerri Sparling is an internationally recognized diabetes advocate. She is the creator and author of Six Until Me, established in 2005, and remains one of the most widely-read diabetes patient blogs, reaching a global audience of patients, caregivers, and industry. In addition to her writing, Kerri is a highly-rated speaker and has presented the patient perspective to audiences around the world. She works to raise awareness of diabetes, patient advocacy, and the influence of social media on health outcomes. Her first book, Balancing Diabetes (Spry Publishing), looks at type 1 diabetes in the context of “real life.”
American Diabetes Association. “The American Diabetes Association® Releases Psychosocial Recommendations for Medical Providers.” November 22, 2016.
Cameron, N.E. “Current Diabetes Reviews.” Bentham Science. 2016.
Snouffer, E., and Fisher, L. “Diabetes Distress: A Real and Normal Part of Diabetes.” September 2016.
The Diabetes Online Community. “Learn, Connect, Engage.”
Young-Hyman, D.Y., M. de Groot, F. Hill-Briggs, J.S. Gonzalez, K. Hood, and M. Peyrot. “Psychosocial Care for People with Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association.” American Diabetes Association. December 2016.