Getting a handle on diabetes and your emotions

Research shows that those suffering from diabetes have a higher risk of depression than the rest of us.

The traditional management of diabetes aims at diet, medication, and exercise while the psychological aspect of the disease is often overlooked.

Due to negative perceptions and the stigma attached to emotional/mental issues, many diabetes patients are reluctant to seek counselling or treatment.

The emotional turmoil of diabetic patients

Studies indicate that diabetics are more likely to have strong emotional responses to negative experiences.

Research has also indicates that individuals with pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes experience more activity on the right side of their brains, which is associated with depression and negative emotions.

These patients also record lower cortisol levels that indicate a lower resistance to stress, and have a 40% higher risk of experiencing anxiety.

People with diabetes normally go through several emotional stages as they come to grips with having a chronic disease.

Psychological support for diabetes

As diabetic patients become more fixated on negative thoughts, losing weight and managing other health issues can become more challenging.

Negative emotions and anxiety affect how diabetics handle their disease. This is manifested in their poorer adherence to diet and medication, lesser physical activity and ultimately higher healthcare costs.

For healthcare providers, giving these patients psychological support can make a huge difference in the management of their disease.

This can be done through:

  • Providing awareness and skills development.
  • Being more emphatic and improving communication skills.
  • Personalising the patients’ management and care according to their needs.
  • Assessing the impact of diabetes on the patients’ daily routines and how to overcome it.

Concerns about diabetes management have led several patients to impose various restrictions upon themselves.

Many tend to isolate themselves, which may precipitate or exacerbate negative emotions.

By using an approach that promotes open discussion about the difficulties in following a diabetes regimen, healthcare providers can help patients gain a sense of freedom through safe self-management skills.

Managing your emotions in facing diabetes

According to psychologist, author, and editor Dr Deborah Rozman, “If you don’t manage your emotions, then your emotions will manage you.”

Therefore, addressing your emotions should be a priority when it comes to diabetes management.

Acceptance and acknowledgement

Acceptance and acknowledgement of your condition will help you focus on strategies to manage diabetes. You should also learn to accept and acknowledge the negative emotions that may surface because of it.

You can overcome negative emotions by reframing your thoughts by looking at the situation in a positive way.

For example, a person with diabetes may say to himself, “It’s a good thing I was diagnosed early because it’s not too late for me to start living healthier and to try to reduce my blood sugar levels till they become stable.”

Forgive yourself and grow from this experience

It is easy for one to fall into a trap of guilt, regret and self-blame. But it is important to know that no one is perfect, so learn to forgive yourself. Let go and move on to the next step to become healthier.

Have an action plan

After going through the initial phase of acceptance and awareness, it’s good to move on to the next phase of knowing how to manage diabetes.

It would be helpful to go through an action plan involving food and fitness with a friend or a family member.

Stay connected

Being alone makes diabetes management worse as isolation can make you feel more anxious. Talk to your friends and family for support.

Close family members who live with those suffering from diabetes can help by practising similar healthy eating patterns.

This can be one of the most powerful ways to support your loved ones by making them feel they’re not alone in this.

Relaxation techniques

Try to make time for some peaceful “me time” where you connect with nature in a quiet setting to help you unwind and get away from it all.

Managing diabetes may seem difficult at first but if you stop for a moment and reframe your thoughts, you will realise that diabetes management actually involves healthy thoughts, healthy emotions and healthy behaviour patterns like healthy eating and fitness activities in order to ultimately attain a healthy lifestyle.

Shouldn’t everyone be doing the same too? You’re not alone in this journey to becoming a healthier you. We’re all in this together.

This article was written in collaboration with Naluri and appeared in It was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.