6 diabetes phobias, and how they can be overcome

Diabetes is tough enough to control without having to live with certain phobias that make management even harder.

In this blog, we take a look at six different diabetes phobias that can be extremely problematic, and some tips that can help you start to overcome them.

6. Needle phobia

Roughly 10 per cent of the general population are affected by needle phobia (clinically known as trypanophobia). This can be challenging for people with diabetes who inject themselves with medication such as insulin every day.

Most people dislike needles, but a needle phobia means people cannot bear the thought of injections. People with diabetes who have a needle phobia can take much longer to medicate, and being able to inject can require tremendous mental training.

Relaxation practices such as holding a deep breath for a few seconds prior to administering a needle can be useful, while creating a “Fear Hierachy”, which establishes a series of actions to overcome fear, can help you gradually manage a needle phobia.

5. Fear of long-term complications

People with diabetes face a risk of developing long-term complications, and this can make some fearful – either because they feel like they don’t have control or because they might be unsure about how to stop complications developing.

Thankfully, medical developments mean that people with diabetes are less likely to develop long-term complications than ever before. Moreover, keeping good control of blood glucose levels, eating the right things and living a healthy lifestyle can increase the chances that you might not actually develop any complications.

Remind yourself that making healthy strides staves off the risk of complications, and make use of the information and support available on the Diabetes Forum and Diabetes.co.uk to assuage any fears you may have about diabetes complications.

4. Fear of hypos

Many people with diabetes are anxious about hypoglycemia, especially when it occurs in a public setting, or at night.

The symptoms of a hypo can be unpleasant and potentially increase your anxiety about it happening again. Some people can feel governed by this fear, and either keep their blood sugar levels too high to avoid hypos, or restrict activities that can increase the risk of hypos, such as exercise.

It’s important to recognise and act on a hypo, but there’s no need to be overly fearful to the point where it causes you regular anxiety or reduces your diabetes control. Death from hypoglycemia is very rare; the exceptions include hypos when driving or overnight if alcohol has been consumed.

Make sure you speak with your healthcare team if you are experiencing difficulties with a fear of hypoglycemia.

3. Fear of doctors

It can be hard visiting your healthcare team. This might because you feel like a “bad” patient when you’ve received a poor test result, or because you don’t feel you can disagree with something your doctor or nurse has told you.

This can lead to some people being fearful of a diabetes check-up, but it is important to remember that no one doctor is perfect – some will be able to explain diabetes better than others, and some will have a better bedside manner.

Make sure you plan ahead of your next diabetes check-up. This can help you keep calm at your next appointment because you’ll know exactly what to ask. Additionally. do your own diabetes research in advance in case you struggle to understand certain information your doctor told you at your last review.

2. White coat syndrome

People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure, but feeling stressed in the presence of a doctor or nurse during a blood pressure reading can raise it further. This is known as white coat syndrome.

People who feel tense in medical settings can have higher blood pressure, and this makes it harder for your doctor to measure your blood pressure accurately. You might be instructed to measure your blood pressure at home or undergo 24-hour blood pressure monitoring to show how your levels change throughout the day.

If you are experiencing white coat effects during blood pressure monitoring at your GP, take a moment to relax before your next appointment and bring your blood pressure back down to normal. Relaxation exercises can help calm you down, while buying a blood pressure monitoring kit enables you to regularly show your doctor what your blood pressure is like on a day-to-day basis.

1. Fear of blood tests

People with diabetes experience two different types of blood test: blood glucose monitoring and having your blood tested as part of a diabetic review.

A fear of testing your blood sugar can be restricting, particularly if you treat your diabetes with insulin and you need to know how your blood sugar is reacting. Your fear may have developed because of pain felt when finger pricking, or getting bad results, but it is important to try to manage this fear as best as possible. Rotating which fingers you use to prick can help alleviate any pain, while going on a carbohydrate counting course can teach you how to maintain good glycemic control – making test results less daunting.

You should receive a blood test at your diabetic reviews to check your HbA1c, as well as other measurements. Make sure to let the nurse or doctor testing your blood aware if you are feeling anxious – they will be able to reassure you. And, similarly to treating needle phobias, be sure to participate in some relaxation exercises prior to the test.

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About the author

Jack Woodfield

Jack is Editorial Manager of Diabetes.co.uk. He works hard, plays fair and sleeps whenever possible. He has type 1 diabetes, doesn't mind being called a "diabetic", and once won a talent show for dancing to Dario G’s 1997 hit “Sunchyme”.

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