Living with diabetes blog

Diabetes diagnosis: First reactions

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. March 31, 2011

Throughout my years as a diabetes educator, I've seen many people faced with the shock of a new diabetes diagnosis. There's the diabetes diagnosis itself, and then being thrown immediately into the required management of the disease. Everyone processes and reacts to this information differently. Unfortunately, the disease generally doesn't allow much time to ease into its management — scheduling and giving medications and injections, counting carbohydrates, storing insulin, understanding hypoglycemia and its treatment, using blood glucose meters, foot care, exercise and much more.

People's response to a new diabetes diagnosis varies. It's natural to respond with shock and stress. You might feel dazed or agitated, have poor concentration or a narrowing of attention, have difficulty comprehending information, anxiety, panic, a rapid heart beat, sweating, and shakiness and flushing. Some statements I've heard include:

  • Honestly? I wasn't expecting it, I don't eat sugar.
  • No one in my family has diabetes.
  • I ate a bunch of candy yesterday. That's why my sugar is high.
  • Test my blood sugar again, I don't think it's right.
  • I can never eat cake again.
  • I'm not overweight. How did I get this?

People are frequently told they have diabetes, then rushed into a quick education session to learn how to test blood glucose, take the medications and insulin required, modify their diet and treat low blood sugar. These quick educations sessions aren't ideal. They may happen because of lack of time, at a patient's or physician's request, or because a person doesn't have insurance. I've looked at a person sitting there in shock and wondered how much of the information he or she really absorbed. This isn't my preferred method of education, but people amaze me sometimes at how well they adapt to it.

Studies show that after three days, adults only remember 10 percent of what they read, 20 percent of what they hear, and 30 percent of what they see. However, when adults are actively involved in learning new material, they'll remember up to 90 percent of what they say and do. So, the more active a role you can play in your diabetes education, the better.

What was your reaction to first being told "You have diabetes?"

Have a good week,


27 Comments Posted

March 31, 2011