Diabetes affects the life of diabetics in many different ways. It’s not just a case of managing your condition by counting carbs, monitoring blood glucose, and topping-up insulin. It can also be by changing the way you sleep.
The mental strain of managing the condition day after day is enough to bring even the most cheerful people down. Mental health issues including diabetes distress and depression are ongoing problems many diabetics have to endure.
In fact, major depressive disorder (MDD) may be up to three times more common among diabetics than it is in the general population. If that sounds bad it gets worse. Diabetics with MDD tend to have worse health outcomes and higher mortality rates.
Diabetes may also suffer from associated other conditions such as sleep apnea and snoring.
What Will I Learn?
- 1 What is Diabetes Distress?
- 2 How Common is Diabetes Distress?
- 3 Diabetics Do Not Suffer Alone
- 4 Practical Ways to Tackle the Psychosocial Aspects of Diabetes
- 5 Self-Esteem and Social Impact
- 6 Coping with Diabetes Distress: A Few Self-Help Tips
What is Diabetes Distress?
Diabetes distress is an emotional state that causes diabetics to experience negative emotions and stress. The feelings of guilt or denial that come from living with the condition and the ongoing burden of self-management can be overwhelming.
Add to that the worry about the cost of medicines and the risk of developing diabetes-related complications such as nerve damage and glaucoma and it’s not surprising the condition gets so many people down.
Did you Know: Snoring and diabetes may be connected. According to recent research people who snore heavily are twice as likely to become diabetics to people as quiet sleepers. Sleep apnea also forms a connected trio according to latest research. It is advised to wear a device or mouthpiece (CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure) to open the airways. Tests have revealed that if suffers of sleep apnea and snoring take steps to increase the flow or air they can significantly reduce their glucose levels.
How Common is Diabetes Distress?
Diabetes distress is more common than clinical depression. The condition affects up 39% of people who have type 1 diabetes and 35% of people who have type 2.
Data collected in 2014 reveals the daily impact living with diabetes can have on many patients’ physical and mental well-being.
Sixteen thousand people took part in the questionnaire-type study. They came from 17 countries and 4 continents.
Sixty-five percent of respondents said their condition was negatively affecting their physical health. Forty-six percent complained diabetes was emotionally damaging and 44 percent were worrying about the strain diabetes was placing on their finances.
Sadly, 39 percent of respondents feel their medication routine interferes with their ability to live a normal life. Many also feel their healthcare providers often ignore the continual burdens the condition presents.
DAWN2 – (Diabetes Attitudes Wishes and Needs) was a study focused on understanding the the psychosocial aspects of diabetes
Diabetics Do Not Suffer Alone
Diabetes doesn’t just affect the ones who have the condition. It has an impact on their families and close friends as well. Research shows 35 percent of people with a diabetic family member feel caring for their relative presents a moderate to very large burden.
Part of the problem is, a lot of people simply have no idea how to help family members with diabetes. Of course, dietitians and other professional carers are capable of filling in the blanks, but many people don’t have the time to devote to learning more about helping their loved ones manage the condition.
Tackle the Problem as Early as Possible
It’s not good to wait. Especially with children. Parents and healthcare providers should talk to adolescent diabetics as soon as possible and make them aware their condition may present mental health issues. Forewarned is forearmed.
The knowledge won’t prevent the problem from occurring but, when the depression hits, it should give them a better understanding of what’s going on.
Mental Health Screening
If diabetics were to get regular mental health screening sessions it may help nip problems in the bud. The problem is, many healthcare providers do not have the experience or training required for dealing with mental health issues.
There’s also a need to dig deep. First impressions are not enough because false positives are often an issue when diagnosing depression.
Experts say it’s important not to be satisfied with an initial positive result for mental health conditions. The results need to be followed up by an in-depth screening conducted by a trained mental health professional.
One Therapy Does Not Fit All
There are several therapies diabetics can use to try and control their diabetes distress and depression. However, what works for one person may not do much for the next.
A few examples include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Problem-solving therapy
- Mind-body therapy
And, of course, antidepressants and other medications may also be used for treating the symptoms of diabetic depression.
A Changeable Condition
There are no constants with diabetes distress and depression. Things can change over time.
Some diabetics may have such issues right from the start and find ways to control them. Others may be fine initially and then find they have problems later on.
Nothing is written in stone. Some days may be worse than others. Some weeks may be worse than others. Like diabetes, depression affects people to different levels and in different ways.
Again, there’s a lot to be said for regular check-ups and mental health screening sessions.
Self-Esteem and Social Impact
Depression is an unpleasant and debilitating condition. It’s been linked to unemployment, poor levels of self-care, decreased quality of life, and poor glycemic control. The condition also presents several other negatives that can make life as a diabetic seem unbearable.
Of course, these are problems that many diabetics have to live with in addition to struggling with the day-to-day process of managing their condition.
Coping with Diabetes Distress: A Few Self-Help Tips
1. Take Note of Your Feelings
Most people fall victim to stress and frustration from time to time. When you are diabetic these feelings can soon become overwhelming.
Take note of the way you feel. If the negative emotions continue for any length of time it may mean you need additional support controlling your diabetes. Share your concerns with your healthcare provider and let them know what’s going on. If they cannot help you directly they may be able to refer you to someone who can.
2. Don’t Try to Go It Alone
Some diabetics worry about negative reactions from others who learn of their condition. Don’t suffer in silence. If you feel your condition is a problem for other people, share your feelings with your healthcare provider or a close friend or family member with a sympathetic ear.
Bottling things up is never good. Especially for long periods of time. Talking can help. Above all else, you should never feel compelled to hide your condition from other people. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
3. It’s all About the Money, Honey
If you are on a tight budget and find it hard to keep up with the cost of your treatment, don’t be shy about asking if help is available. It may be that you can get assistance with the cost of your medicines and supplies. If you don’t look into the matter you will never know.
Ask your local pharmacist or check with your doctor or another healthcare provider. Someone may be aware of government programs that can help. Fellow diabetics may also prove to be a mine of useful information.
4. Get Things Out in the Open
Come out of the closet and let your family and friends know about your diabetes. Living a double life and hiding is unhealthy and the longer you do it the harder it will be to break free from your self-made prison.
A problem shared is a problem halved. Just the act of telling people what’s going on may actually do a lot to relieve your stress.
5. Allow Others to Help
The support of friends and family members can remove a lot of the stress from your life. Especially during the early days of your condition when you are still trying to get into a routine.
The people around you may be happy to remind you to take your medicine and may even help you to monitor your blood sugar. You may even find you get help preparing suitably healthy meals.
6. When You Are Sailing Stormy Seas You Don’t Need to Sail Alone
Sometimes it helps to talk to people who are in the same boat. Fellow diabetics will understand better than anyone some of the things you are going through.
If you need help, ask them how they deal with the same issues. Quiz them about the things that work best for them.
Spending time with other diabetics may also help you to feel less lonely and overwhelmed by the condition. There may be diabetic support groups in your local area. If not, you may be able to reach out to fellow diabetics online. Ask your doctor if they can help.