The unseen challenges of living with diabetes
Diabetes affects an estimated 4.7 million, according to the latest statistics from Diabetes UK. It is estimated that 700 people a day are diagnosed with diabetes, an equivalent of one person every two minutes. In addition to this there are also around 1.1 million people in the UK who have diabetes but have not been diagnosed.
It is clearly a condition that affects a large proportion of the population, and management of the condition depends upon which type of diabetes an individual suffers from. Type 1 Diabetics will need to control their condition with insulin, whereas Type 2 Diabetics may either be able to manage their condition with diet and exercise initially or with medication to help manage their blood sugar levels. Regardless of the way in which an individual manages their diabetes it is something that does not go away and managing their condition is something they have to live with every day of their lives.
However, sometimes it can be easy for others to forget about how having to go through this daily routine can have a massive impact on sufferers’ mental health. Here we take a look at what it is really like to suffer from diabetes and raise awareness of this important issue this Diabetes Week (10 June – 16 June 2019).
The impact of diabetes on a person’s mental health
Diabetes UK have recently published new research, based on a survey of more than 2,500 adults with diabetes from across the UK. The findings have been published in the report “Too often missing: Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care” and reading this you quickly realise that diabetes is so much more than just a physical condition.
The results show that seven out of ten people affected feel overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes. Furthermore, 75% of those who feel overwhelmed say that this affects how well they can manage their condition.
As you can no doubt imagine, having to manage the physical symptoms of diabetes 24/7, including checking your blood glucose levels and managing your diet, alongside ongoing decisions in respect of your medical care in order to reduce the likelihood of any unwanted complications, can impact upon people’s emotional, mental and psychological wellbeing. Such problems can include:
- feelings of being frustrated, defeated, and overwhelmed with the day-to-day demands of diabetes. Individuals can develop ‘diabetes burnout’ which in turn creates somewhat of a vicious cycle as they are then left feeling completely unable to manage the physical aspects of the condition. This can potentially lead to very dangerous complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can require emergency admission to hospital.
- depression and anxiety – it is said that people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience depression, which can be brought on by the relentless nature of the condition.
- eating problems – for a condition where strict management of your diet is key it can be all too easy for problems to develop if you are not careful. two in five people with Type 1 diabetes, and one in four people with Type 2 diabetes, have experienced disordered eating behaviours. Problems can include excessive carbohydrate counting, restricting food, and over and undereating. People can also reduce or omit insulin in order to lose weight, known as diabulimia.
Whilst the above may be some of the more common problems faced this is certainly not an exhaustive list, and of course not all impacts on mental health will be ‘diagnosable’ conditions. Whatever the effect on the individual the most important thing to do is recognising it as by identifying and supporting those that are struggling at an early stage could help prevent any further mental health problems form occurring, as well as help improve their diabetes self-management going forwards.
So, this Diabetes Week why not reach out to your friends and family suffering from diabetes and check in with them to see how they are doing. If this survey is representative of anything it is that most individuals would like someone who understands to talk to them about how they are doing and just listen to them.
This applies to parents and carers too – whilst they may not be affected by the condition themselves they have to watch their loved ones go through this on a daily basis and can be just as affected by the struggles experienced. A little help goes a long way and they will no doubt appreciate you taking the time to lend them your ear.
How Diabetes UK are taking action
The evidence gathered by Diabetes UK shows that diabetes-tailored emotional and psychological support and treatment improves emotional wellbeing and has a positive impact on management of diabetes, in particular reducing average blood sugar levels. This in turn will reduce the risk of serious complications and future ill health.
Diabetes UK therefore launched their campaign in parliament on 14 May 2019 for:
- the emotional and psychological impact of diabetes to be recognised in all diabetes care through systematic care and support planning and better conversations.
- the NHS and the third sector at a national and local level to work together to provide service such as peer support, community groups, education and self-help resources for people affected by diabetes.
- services providing diabetes care to be supported by specialist mental health professionals, including psychologists and liaison psychiatrists, to ensure effective provision across all levels of need.
- an integrated care pathway for diabetes and emotional and psychological wellbeing to be developed and implemented in each UK nation.
- all healthcare professionals providing general diabetes care to have the training and skills to identify and support the emotional and psychological wellbeing of people affected by diabetes.
- mental health professionals providing care for people affected by diabetes to have knowledge of diabetes and an understanding of the impact the condition can have on physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing.
To read more, including their specific plans for each of the four UK nations, visit their website at:
Can we be of any help?
As this research highlights difficulties with managing the physical symptoms of diabetes can have a huge emotional impact and it is too easy to become overwhelmed and for things to spiral out of control. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that if you feel you are not being cared for correctly that you look to do something about this before it is too late.
One of the most common causes of medical negligence is the failure to adequately diagnose and manage the symptoms of diabetes of diabetes which can often lead to a wide array of vascular problems.
Regardless of whether you are Type 1 or Type 2 diabetic if you begin to experience any symptoms out of the ordinary it is always important that you arrange an appointment with the doctor responsible for your care to investigate. Early detection of such problems is important to increase your chances of successful treatment.
If you have any questions about issues you have experienced with the management of your diabetes by your medical professional please contact a member our specialist team, who will be happy to answer any queries you have.