The physical impact of diabetes is well documented but the emotional and psychological impact is still not well understood.
Diabetes can have an emotional impact at differing stages: from diagnosis, starting oral and injectable medication, through to the development of complications or other life changes such as adolescence.
A survey by Diabetes UK (this link will take you away from our website) found that more than two thirds of people with diabetes who needed psychological support said they had not received it. This is a major concern because the rate of depression is twice as high in people with diabetes compared to the general population and levels of anxiety and eating disorders are also significantly higher. Depression in diabetes can lead to poorer diabetes self-care which can, in turn, lead to an increased risk of devastating complications such as blindness, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and amputation. Giving more people access to appropriate emotional support could save the NHS money by helping people to self-manage and reduce their risk of complications.
When first diagnosed, individuals and carers frequently experience feelings of disbelief, anger, denial and depression. Managing diabetes can be stressful and isolating and can be stigmatising for cultural reasons or because of the lack of understanding in society which makes many feel blamed for having Type 2 diabetes. Many people find their own personal way to deal with these feelings, however many others struggle to come to terms with how diabetes is making them feel. For some, these feelings may develop into eating disorders, phobias or depression.
Diabetes UK thinks it’s important that emotional and psychological support is provided from diagnosis. This support can take many forms: peer support from others living with diabetes, informal social support provided by family and friends, to formal psychological support from healthcare and psychological professionals. All are crucial to help the person living with diabetes to cope and live well.
Living with diabetes means never having a single day off from managing your condition and people with diabetes find that coping with diabetes every hour of every day can be exhausting and stressful. Feeling isolated is also common in people with the condition. Getting the right emotional help can make a real difference and can improve people’s mental health as well as helping improve their physical health outcomes.
One of the main findings from the Future of Diabetes (this link will take you away from our website) was that people living with diabetes and their families need better access to emotional and psychological support, and this is why we will be campaigning hard for better access to psychological support for those living with and affected by diabetes.