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  • Anne Nisenzon, PhD

Managing Diabetes Distress




Over 100,000 finger pricks. Thousands of dollars spent on test strips. And countless hours of lost sleep due to anxiety and stress over low blood sugar. This is what many who have been diagnosed with diabetes go through over the course of their lives. Diabetes distress, or feeling burdened by daily diabetes care, is real and can eventually lead to burnout, self-neglect, and significant depression.


Everyone with diabetes will likely experience distress or a feeling of burnout at some point, and it’s important to notice the signs before it results in poor management. Diabetes distress may happen as early as diagnosis since significant lifestyle adjustments need to be made quickly. Distress can also sink in if the treatment course changes or if there are any health-related complications. A common issue that can lead to distress is doing everything “right” in terms of your diabetes management, but still falling out of the target range on your glucose values. These frustrating experiences can lead to feelings of anxiety, shame, and self-blame. A lot of people with diabetes may also experience inadvertent blame from their loved ones or health care providers, causing more distress and feelings of hopelessness. These emotions can cause people to stop their management regimen and result in health-related complications, furthering the cycle of distress.


When this cycle of distress comes up, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Diabetes management is really difficult and there are no vacations from it. To prevent the distress from impacting your diabetes management, it can be helpful to anticipate and prepare for any barriers to your care. If you are experiencing extra stress at work or home, reach out for support, delegate responsibilities that can be shared, and engage in extra self-care activities. Poor sleep, either due to diabetes or depression, can also make distress worse. Addressing sleep-related issues, such as sleep apnea and anxiety-related insomnia, can improve energy and focus needed during the day to follow your regimen. Getting regular exercise is another overall mood-booster that can help relieve some of the emotional toll of diabetes management. Finally, setting specific, measurable, and achievable short-term goals for yourself can help you stay motivated without feeling overwhelmed.


Diabetes distress is a very common issue and can be treated with the right combination of understanding, support, and skills. Optimal Health Therapy can help you and your loved ones achieve the balance needed to manage your diabetes while maximizing your quality of life and well-being.