diabetes

Why aren’t people with diabetes getting the emotional support they need?

A recent survey found that, out of 2,741 people with diabetes who needed emotional support, 2,072 didn’t receive it. The implication is clear: the emotional impact of diabetes isn’t considered important.

But it is. Of course it is, just as the emotional wellbeing of anybody is important.

Diabetes and emotional support: why is it important?

Because the emotional impact of diabetes can be severe. People with diabetes are more likely to experience depression – three times more likely, according to figures from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.[1] [2] [3] In many cases, help is sorely needed.

Then there’s the impact of emotional health on physical wellbeing. Diabetes requires frequent attention over a long period of time. Motivation is key. Psychological problems like diabetes burnout – in which people essentially submit to the condition, having temporarily lost the ability to keep going – lead to uncontrolled blood glucose levels, which in turn lead to complications.

I have diabetes, and I’m struggling emotionally. What can I do?

There may be an apparently institutionalised disregard for the emotional impact of diabetes, but there are always options, somewhere to turn.

Mindfulness

Several studies have linked mindfulness and related coping strategies to improved diabetes control.[4] [5] The popularity of mindfulness in recent years has prompted a number of scientific studies to test the benefits, and most of them have found good things.

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on one’s moment-by-moment thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, living entirely in the moment without judgement. It’s derived from Buddhist practices.

Dav Panesar, a specialist in mindfulness-based psychotherapy, says:

There is a direct mind body connection, our states of mind (stress, anger, fear, anxiety) all impact our physiology. Increasing blood pressure, blood gluscoe levels, cortisol etc.. all of which are detrimental to someone with diabetes, and lead to IRS (insulim resistance symdrone) in healthy individuals.

Mindfulness and compassion based approaches help us first recognise the harmful psychological states, and then skillfully dis-engage from these harmful mental states by cultivating Present moment awareness through focus on the breath

People are often suspicious of mindfulness at first; it goes against the often stressful way we’re used to living our lives. If you’re struggling to handle the emotional impact of your diabetes, give mindfulness a go.

Relationships

We all need the people in our lives. Friends, family, significant others – we depend on our relationships for emotional stability. And diabetes is no different. Studies have shown this: “greater levels of social support, particularly disease- or regimen-specific support, are related to better self-management behaviours.”[6] In another study, 16 of 21 participants cited family as a “main source of support.”[7]

If you don’t already, reach out to your loved ones if you’re struggling with the emotional impact of your diabetes. It could make all the difference.

Support forums

The Diabetes.co.uk forum is a tight-knit community and a constant source of emotional support for its members. One users, who reduced their HbA1c from 12.3% to 5.6% in three months, expressed a lot of love for the forum:

“All I had was my honest intent and a thirst for knowledge and acceptance of the support and challenge from the wonderful members on this forum.”

And, according to another:

“This success is down to YOU”

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is all about addressing your negative thoughts: why do you have them? Is it helpful to think like this? By confronting our thoughts, the idea goes, we can learn to think more positively, more constructively.

Again, studies have shown that cognitive behavioural therapy relieves depression in people with diabetes.[8]

If you’re interested in cognitive behavioural therapy, speak to your healthcare team. They can tell you how to access it.

Counselling

If you just want to get in touch with a counsellor – because you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or burnt out as a result of your diabetes (or for any other reason) – ask your GP. Alternatively, you can look for a counsellor privately, with https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/.

[1]https://www.kalbemed.com/Portals/6/KOMELIB/CENTRAL%20NERVOUS%20SYSTEM/Neurologi/Sertraline/the%20prevalence%20of%20comorbid%20depression%20in%20adults%20with%20diabetes.pdf

[2] https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/19/10/1097.short

[3] https://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=182095

[4] https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/ccp/75/2/336/

[5] https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/35/5/945.abstract

[6]https://76.189.222.248/shares/BMFMRF/CASE%20Documents%202009/615%20self%20management%20dolansky/week%206/Gallant%20influence%20soc%20support%20Chron%20ill%20SM%202003.pdf

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3895933/

[8] https://ebmh.bmj.com/content/2/2/50.full

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