When diabetes tops the to-do list day after day with its ‘tasky’ lineup of things to do, the burden it places on our emotional stamina can be overwhelming, and worry in and of itself can sabotage our health.
Diabetes is a demanding disease, and unique in that it needs to be managed minute to minute.
Many will face complications from this diabetes — be it type 1 or type 2 — but nearly everyone faces a lifetime of worry and so will their loved ones. One’s mind may be drawn to the physical side effects of the disease initially; it’s much harder to grasp the non-subjective things such as anxiety that plague us day-to-day.
Rolling with the punches may theoretically sounds like ‘no problem,’ but only a small fraction of people living with, or parenting to a child with it feel that way.
Worry may just be the worst side effect of a diabetes diagnosis.
What is it we’re so worried about?
In Diabetes Forecast, Dr. Fisher, PhD, professor at the Diabetes Center of the University of California–San Francisco states that patients aren’t “depressed,” but rather suffer from a unique set of stressful circumstances related to managing their disease. They’ve put a name to the face for us: “diabetes distress.”
The truth is, diabetes leaves no stone unturned – distress amongst caregivers may equal or surpass the person’s stress that is actually diagnosed with it. Caregivers often carry the burden of stress when their loved one is tucked in bed at night; they’re the ones not sleeping.
Dr. Fisher's research suggests: “in any 18-month period, between 1/3 and 1/2 of people with diabetes will experience diabetes distress” – and judgment isn’t limited to oneself, it also comes from external sources such as: glucometers, continuous glucose monitors, and Hemoglobin A1c results.
Common threads may look like this:
• Financial burdens
• Social implications
• Disease side effects
• Low blood sugars/ high blood sugars
• Worry about a child with type 1 diabetes
• Task overload/ burnout: checking blood sugars, counting carbs, taking insulin, purchasing supplies, insurance, and making appointments
• Living with a measurable/ results focused disease – when numbers don’t tell the entire story.
Worry vs. Stress
According to Diabetes UK: “People diagnosed with diabetes are approximately 20 percent more likely to suffer from anxiety than those without diabetes.”
Grin and bear it — we must at times — it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of normal worry and recognize when it crosses the line to stress, anxiety or depression.
Overcoming the negatives
Dr. Fisher recommends engaging two tactics with diabetes that engage grabbing the bull by the horns.
• Improve disease management to help decrease worries
• Directly target the negative thoughts
Diabetes isn’t perfect and that’s a fact that needs to be accepted. Living with diabetes forces us to live in the moment (which is a gift of this disease) — or fear may be so overwhelming that we are ultimately robbed of our happiness.