Diabetes is not just balancing the numbers between a glucose monitor and your caloric intake. It goes beyond the numbers, as it is a journey of constant struggle. It is said to be a constant struggle because it necessitates certain lifestyle changes. The ongoing challenge lies in maintaining a balance that ensures optimal health and well-being.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body is not able to produce enough insulin, or it is unable to effectively utilize the insulin it is producing. Insulin is a type of hormone naturally produced by our body so that blood sugar levels remain balanced. In the United States, more than 133 million people are currently diagnosed with diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes: occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin and hence patients need regular administration of insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes: is characterized by the inability of the body to use insulin properly and hence leading to the need for medications and lifestyle adjustment. Clinical trials for type 2 diabetes are being conducted all over the US including Michigan, exploring novel potential therapies for this chronic condition.
Symptoms of Diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Loss of weight
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Increased thirst
- Recurrent infections
- Slow healing of wounds
Diabetes and Mental Health — The Unseen Battle
From the healthcare point of view, the care and management of the blood glucose levels of a person with diabetes must be constantly catered to, which is one of the most important things. But we often forget that diabetics live with a chronic condition that takes a toll on their mental health and emotional well-being. Many individuals find it challenging to accept the necessity of lifelong medications. This ultimately results in stress, anxiety, and depression, and might consequently lead to noncompliance with treatment and an overall inferior quality of life.
When individuals are diagnosed with diabetes, they undergo a series of emotions that range from denial, anger, guilt, depression, and acceptance.
Denial is the very first step in which a newly diagnosed diabetic may directly refuse to accept the diagnosis and they may also blame the diagnostic method as incorrect.
The individual may then suffer from a state of anger and displeasure of developing such a chronic clinical condition. Through anger, the patient may be able to mask the pain and the uncertainty they feel from diabetes diagnosis.
Feelings of guilt arise when individuals internalize the notion that their chronic condition stems from their own actions.
Depression sets in, characterized by questioning why they are the only ones experiencing this condition, fostering a pervasive sense of hopelessness about their life.
Then eventually comes a stage of acceptance where a diabetic might accept their situation, and they start to find ways to live with reality. This step requires lots of persistence, and patience so that the patient can understand, adapt, and manage diabetes with their lifestyles.
Even after accepting their situation and implementing proper monitoring, exercise, and a healthy diet, individuals managing diabetes may still grapple with the emotional burden and worries associated with the chronic condition. The continuous need for management can lead to a sense of overwhelming responsibility for the patient. The persistent challenge may contribute to emotional stress, emphasizing the importance of holistic support in diabetes care. This is called Diabetes Distress.
It is particularly important that the person should not stew in these emotions otherwise they may lead to psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Depression and Diabetes:
People suffering from diabetes are two-times more prone to developing depression than those people who do not have diabetes. Due to poor mental health, the individual might not feel the need to regularly monitor the blood glucose levels, they might not exercise properly and start consuming less healthy foods. The convergence of depression and diabetes profoundly influences the overall quality of life, impacting a person’s work, relationships, and daily activities.
Symptoms for depression include:
- Lack of energy
- Lack of pleasure in daily activities
- Inability to focus
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of appetite
Anxiety and Diabetes:
Anxiety is another common psychological disorder in people suffering from diabetes because it feels like a walk-in foggy forest. The patient does not know what to do, when to do it or how to do it. Along with all this, there is the cloud of uncertainties that lies above the head not knowing what is going to happen next. The short-term and the long-term complications create a lot of anxiety for people dealing with diabetes.
Symptoms for anxiety include:
- Feelings of uneasiness
- Tense muscles
- Sweaty and cold hands and feet
- Loss of sleep (insomnia)
Psychological Therapies/Strategies in the Treatment of Diabetes
When it comes to managing diabetes, psychological therapies and strategies play a crucial role alongside medical interventions. Different therapies and strategies include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: focuses on changing negative thoughts and behavior and developing helpful beliefs about your life.
- Relaxation therapy: that focuses on muscle relaxation and deep breathing techniques.
- Education and counseling: plays a crucial role in offering comprehensive information on diabetes and its management. Additionally, counseling helps patients navigate and accept challenging thoughts and emotions associated with their condition.
In addition to these therapies, it is important for the patient themself to implement certain strategies to overcome the burnout feeling. As a person starts living with their diabetic condition, they start to understand what the body requires and that it is absolutely important to listen to your body. Set some realistic goals and take breaks if needed to prevent feelings of burnout.
Building a Strong Foundation-Support Systems
Recognizing the importance of addressing the psychological aspects of patients with diabetes is paramount. Establishing a robust foundation is essential, comprising individuals who play pivotal roles in comprehending the complexities of managing chronic conditions and nurturing a sense of belonging.
Connecting with advocacy organizations and support groups that help diabetics and encourage them on the journey to a healthy lifestyle is another important step that could potentially help patients through their feelings of isolation.
Clinical research organizations like Revival Research institute in Michigan and Texas is a strong advocate for raising awareness against diabetes and is involved in conducting clinical trials to help patients suffering from diabetes and its complications.
Living with Diabete is a challenging experience that involves both physical and emotional dimensions. Healthcare providers play a pivotal role in integrating therapies into diabete care. By routinely assessing the emotional and psychological aspects of a patient’s experience with diabetes, healthcare professionals can tailor therapeutic interventions to individual needs. This also increases the quality of life. Also, it’s important that we should not forget that a healthy mind is imperative for a healthy body.