Living with diabetes blog

Diabetes and your emotions

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. March 3, 2009

Recently, I asked my son who has Diabetes Type 1 what he would like me to discuss in this blog. He said that he would like to see a discussion on diabetes and emotions.

He was wondering if emotions can affect your blood sugars. He said that his blood sugars have recently been up and down and he was more depressed at times.

My question seemed to spark a discussion about managing diabetes and his frustration with "the numbers". Logically, he said he knows that it's "silly" but he will not check his blood sugar if he thinks it might be high because then it will be in his glucometer for the doctor to see.

His recent A1C was 6.2 percent which is very good. He graduated from college last year and is discouraged with his inability to find a job in a tough job market. We discussed his current circumstances and I commended him on how he has been managing his diabetes.

No doubt about it, diabetes is mentally, emotionally and physically challenging. Along with the diagnosis of diabetes, you are told that you will have to make some major lifestyle changes such as losing weight, changing the way you eat, and checking your blood sugar levels regularly. Additionally, you may have to take pills or insulin.

You may be frustrated when "the numbers" do not cooperate. My son said he used to be embarrassed with having to give himself an injection in public, but he has overcome being embarrassed and has no problem answering questions about his pump when he uses it to dose for a meal. Strong emotions are normal when adjusting to a new lifestyle. Some common emotions in diabetes include:

  • Denial — A new diagnosis of diabetes may be overwhelming at first with all of the new information that you have been given. Temporarily denying diabetes may help you come to terms with it more slowly. Recognize that this should only be a temporary stage. In order to stay healthy, it's important to regularly check your blood sugar, take prescribed diabetes medications, get regular exercise, eat healthy, and have regular checkups with your health care team.
  • Confusion — Keeping track of managing your diabetes can be difficult. You may find it helpful to write out your daily lifestyle plan that includes a schedule of times to test your blood sugar and take your medicine, time to exercise, and strategies to eat a healthy diet.
  • Anger — Frustration, uncertainty about your health and loss of control are all normal responses to diabetes. Anger does not have to be negative. Use anger to accomplish things that will keep you healthy.
  • Stress — Stress can significantly affect your ability to control your diabetes. You may find that your blood sugars are more elevated and difficult to control. Stress may cause you to miss meals, stop exercising, or forget to take your medicines.

It's important to think positive, take care of yourself and get your needed rest. Accept what you cannot change and don't expect more of yourself than what you are able to give. Most importantly, talk to someone such as a family member, close friend, or clergy/health care provider who is trained to provide support and insight. Keep up your exercise program as it will also help reduce stress and give you a feeling of well-being.

My question for you is, how has diabetes affected you emotionally? What have you done about it, and what has worked for you?

- Peggy

65 Comments Posted

Mar. 03, 2009