HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT - DIABETES DISTRESS?
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Type one diabetes is something which requires self management 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Managing this disease means making a lot of additional decisions and having the ability to plan in a very structured way and at the same time to adapt spontaneously to unexpected situations.This can be a pretty heavy emotional burden - especially in times where nothing seems to work no matter how much effort you put into managing your diabetes. In addition to the daily challenges that type 1 diabetes brings along, many people affected also have a fear of long-term complications as a consequence of T1D.
All these aspects combined can lead to diabetes distress, which can be defined as “emotional state where people experience feelings such as stress, guilt, or denial that arise from living with diabetes and the burden of self-management”*. There are different sources of diabetes distress, such as powerlessness, negative social perceptions, hypoglycaemia distress or eating distress.** Diabetes distress is sometimes confused with depression, as the symptoms can be quite similar. It is important to know that diabetes distress and depression are two different things. However, diabetes distress can result in depression or diabetes burnout if not treated. Diabetes distress is dangerous not only because it can result in other serious, mental health problems, but also because it can have a negative impact on diabetes management and result in poor self-care behaviours like for example not taking medication as recommended, less frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose, an elevated A1C or more frequent severe hypoglycaemia. ***
Diabetes distress can occur in many different forms and is different for every diabetic, some people suffering from diabetes distress might even have good glucose levels and a good A1C but can still suffer from symptoms like guilt, frustration, fear and feeling overwhelmed and powerless. All these factors do not only lead to poorer diabetes management and a higher risk for long-term complications, but also reduce the quality of life in general - which is exactly the reason why we need to talk about it.
Greta Ehlers is a type one diabetic with a passion for classical music and writing. She founded her blog and Instagram account gretastypeone to raise awareness about type one diabetes and everyday life with a chronic condition. Greta is currently studying a master's degree in Strategic Communication at Lund University, Sweden.
* Kreider K. E. (2017). Diabetes Distress or Major Depressive Disorder? A Practical Approach to Diagnosing and Treating Psychological Comorbidities of Diabetes. Diabetes therapy : research, treatment and education of diabetes and related disorders, 8(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13300-017-0231-1
** Fisher L., Polonsky W.H., Hessler D.M., Masharani U., Blumer I., Peters A.L., Strycker L.A. & Bowyer V. (2015). Understanding the sources of diabetes distress in adults with type 1 diabetes.Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, 29(4), 572-577. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2015.01.012