Psychologists Can Help People Learn to Live Well With Diabetes

Share Article

November is American Diabetes Month: The Ohio Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association offer steps to live well with diabetes.

News Image
A psychologist can be a key member of the diabetes care team. Psychologists can help people change their behaviors to gradually improve stress management, eating habits, activity levels and overall quality of life.

As the nation recognizes November as American Diabetes Month, psychologists are sharing an important message about diabetes and mental well-being: With a positive attitude and a strong support network, people can and do live well with diabetes.

Nearly 30 million American children and adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, and research shows that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop depression as people without diabetes.

Having diabetes can be stressful, but newly diagnosed people sometimes have more trouble. This can be due to a lack of acceptance the diagnosis, especially if they feel physically healthy but have yet to experience many symptoms of the disease.

“The list of daily tasks required by diabetes can seem like a lot to handle,” said Ohio Psychological Association member Jennifer Finnerty, PsyD, ABPP. “For most people with diabetes, it can feel isolating, scary and overwhelming. The disease requires health behavior change to manage it. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there is help – whether from other people with diabetes or professionals, such as psychologists.”

The Ohio Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association offer the following steps to live well with diabetes:

1. Get the facts. Learn about diabetes and understand the specific diagnosis to make informed decisions. Prior to a visit with a physician or other health care provider, make a list of questions or concerns to ask and talk about.

2. Accept the feelings. Studies show that people who acknowledge negative feelings about the diagnosis are better at caring for themselves and keeping glucose levels stable. Avoiding negative thoughts and feelings about diabetes or pretending they do not exist, can bring on increased stress. Instead, talk to friends and family about your concerns and problem solve healthy ways you can cope together.

3. Maintain a balanced perspective. Don't allow diabetes to become the main focus of your life. While you may need to make some lifestyle changes, the disease doesn't have to define you as a person. It is important to continue to do the things in life you enjoy, in order to live well with the disease.

4. Plan Ahead. Having a routine and plan to handle such things as taking your medication, eating out, how to handle a low or high blood sugar, or even tackling holiday meals is important. Having a plan will reduce feelings of being unprepared, which will increase stress.

5. Be realistic. Rules that are too rigid are more likely to be broken. Set small goals that are easily attainable to help change behaviors such as eating and activity level one step at a time.

6. Develop a strong support network. Studies show that people are more likely to follow health regimens when they have a strong support network. Research specific to diabetes patients found those who have support from family and friends have healthier blood sugar levels during times of high stress.

“A psychologist can be a key member of the diabetes care team. Psychologists can help people change their behaviors to gradually improve stress management, eating habits, activity levels and overall quality of life,” Finnerty said. “They can help people learn effective strategies to ensure they regularly test blood sugar, take medications and complete other diabetes self-management activities. Psychologists can also identify when symptoms of depression or anxiety are present and provide treatment for these symptoms. By including a psychologist on their health care team, people with diabetes can learn to better manage their emotions, stress and live well with the disease.”

To learn more about depression and mind/body health, visit http://www.apa.org/helpcenter and follow us on Twitter at @APAHelpCenter. To find out more about the Ohio Psychological Association visit http://www.ohpsych.org and follow us on Twitter at @ohpsychassn.

Located in Columbus, OH, the Ohio Psychological Association is a membership organization of approximately 1,600 Ohio psychologists. Its mission is to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Heather Gilbert
@ohpsychassn
Follow >
Ohio Psychological Association
Like >
Visit website