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Researchers outline profiles of diabetes burnout

Researchers have outlined four different profiles related to diabetes burnout that can show in people with type 1 diabetes.

People with diabetes are being urged to seek support from friends, family or healthcare providers to avoid diabetes burnout.

Findings from a study by the University of Tennessee suggests the daily demands of managing diabetes can, for some people, lead to stress, mental and physical exhaustion and feelings of detachment. This in turn can lead to diabetes burnout.

In the study write up, the researchers note that: “Diabetes burnout has been described as feelings of exhaustion and frustration related to the unrelenting daily demands of managing the illness, resulting in inconsistent self-care behaviours.”

The study, led by Dr Samereh Abdoli, set to increase understanding of the experiences of diabetes burnout among adults living with type 1 diabetes. The research included 18 interviews with people with type 1 diabetes, both men and women, who had an average age of 38.

Participants were selected based on whether they had experienced burnout within the previous 12 months.

One of the participants, a woman aged 36, said: “It’s exhausting, it is exhausting. It really is, to constantly take care of yourself and have to worry about everything you eat, everything you do, every move you make.” Another, a 22-year-old woman added: “You’re tired all the time, I mean physically, you’re just feeling old, feeling worn out.”

As well as exhaustion, the participants also said they were felt detached, with a 42-year-old man saying: “I didn’t want to think about diabetes, and I didn’t want to be a diabetic anymore.” A woman, aged 51, added: “I’ve had enough; I would rather deal with the result of the disease.”

Getting support from friends, family or healthcare professionals as well as trying to maintain a positive attitude was given as recovery strategies. One participant, a 42-year-old woman, said: “I combat my burnout by reminding myself of what’s more important. I’m getting to see my daughter grow up, I get to still work and do the practice that I love, I get to see new things and do things, and I have to remind myself of that, and that’s how I combat it. … Be thankful for what you got.”

The researchers hypothesised that there are four distinct profiles related to diabetes burnout:

  • Engaged profile: the person is dedicated to their own diabetes care and is not showing signs of exhaustion, detachment, or powerlessness.
  • Exhausted profile: the person is engaged with their diabetes self-care and their support systems but describes feeling exhausted or burned out.
  • Disengaged profile: the person is disengaged from one of their diabetes self-care, identification with their type 1 diabetes and/or their support systems, but they are not showing signs of exhaustion or powerlessness.
  • Burned-out profile: the person shows signs of mental, emotional, and physical detachment from their diabetes self-care, support systems and identity with type 1 diabetes. This tends to be accompanied by exhaustion and/or powerlessness.

The researchers note that their findings indicate that there “may be a spectrum from a milder ‘feeling burned out’ to a more severe ‘being burned out’”.

The study was published by the American Journal of Nursing.

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