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Reacting to Your Diagnosis

Learning that you have a chronic illness like diabetes can be emotionally challenging. After you have been diagnosed, you may find yourself dealing with many different feelings, including anxiety, confusion, and fear. Once you have gotten past these initial feelings, the daily challenges posed by living with diabetes may increase your risk for emotional problems like depression, anxiety, and stress.1

Research shows that people with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have depression or anxiety compared to people without diabetes. However, only 25 to 50 percent of people with diabetes who have depression or anxiety receive a diagnosis and treatment.2,3

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, know that you are not alone and help is available. Talk to your doctor about what you are feeling. There are many effective treatment options available, including therapy and medicine. These tools can help you improve your mental health, which will give you a higher quality of life.2,3

Common emotions after a type 2 diabetes diagnosis

No two people will react the same to the diagnosis of diabetes, but there are some common feelings you may experience after you have learned you have diabetes. These may include:1

Shock

Shock is a typical first reaction to a diagnosis of a chronic illness like diabetes. Allow yourself to acknowledge your shock. Talk with your friends and family about what you are experiencing. Friends and family members can be a good source of support. Once you have given yourself space to get over your initial shock, learn all you can about living a healthy and full life with diabetes.

Confusion

When you learn you have diabetes, you may be confused and look for some explanation. You may ask, “Why me?” We all want to know the reason when we develop a health problem. It is important that you do not blame yourself.

Denial

You may go through a period where you avoid feeling and thinking about your diagnosis and what it may mean to your life. Allow yourself space for a healthy amount of denial. It is a natural reaction, but try not to get stuck denying that you have diabetes. This is very important with diabetes because uncontrolled high blood glucose can lead to serious health problems.

Anger

Anger is a normal way of reacting to something that threatens to change your life. Once you have gotten over your initial anger, work to find a way of turning your anger into positive energy. Use this as your motivation to stick to your treatment plan, control your high blood glucose, and live a full and healthy life.

Anxiety

You may experience anxiety about what diabetes will mean for your future. Your challenge will be to take each day as it comes. This is the opportunity of living with a chronic disease like diabetes: it challenges you to learn to live in and embrace the present.

Relief

Once the air has cleared and you learn the facts about living with diabetes, you may experience relief. You will recognize that it is within your power to follow a treatment plan that will allow you to live a full and healthy life.

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There is wisdom in allowing yourself to feel these emotions. They are a natural response to life-changing news.

Keep in mind that you have resources you can use to help you cope with these feelings. You can ask your doctor for a referral to speak with a counselor (usually a social worker or psychologist) who is experienced in helping people with the emotional difficulties that come with a chronic illness like diabetes.

Consider a diabetes support group

When it comes to coping with the emotional and practical challenges posed by diabetes, there is wisdom in the old saying “there is strength in numbers.” When you join a diabetes support group, whether it is an online forum or a group that meets regularly in your local area, you tap into the experience, knowledge, and connections of many people who are struggling with difficulties similar to your own. A support group can be especially useful as a place to talk about the emotional challenges and the stress associated with living with diabetes.

A support group may be led by an experienced health professional, such as a social worker, psychologist, or diabetes educator, or it may be member-led. Such groups are sometimes called peer or self-help groups. Even if you see yourself as an independent person, there are a number of practical benefits you can get from being a member of a support group. Your fellow support group members may have the latest information on treatments and other developments in diabetes research. You can get a lot of useful information by comparing notes with other diabetes patients.3,4

Take advantage of diabetes self-management education and support

Diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) programs can give you the knowledge, skills, and abilities you need for diabetes self-care. In fact, DSMES programs have been proven to improve the health outcomes and reduce hospital admissions of people with diabetes.4

Medicare and most private health insurance plans will cover DSMES services if you have type 2 diabetes. These services cover diabetes education and support provided by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE)-certified diabetes educator. A diabetes educator is a healthcare professional who specializes in helping people who have diabetes or are at risk of developing it. Their goal is to help you better manage your condition and lead a healthier life.4

DSMES services focus on important self-care behaviors that are keys to living a healthy life with type 2 diabetes, such as:4

  • Healthy eating
  • Being active
  • Monitoring blood glucose
  • Taking your medicines as directed
  • Problem-solving
  • Healthy coping
  • Reducing your risk for health complications

Ask your doctor to refer you to a local DSMES provider. If your doctor is not familiar with DSMES services or the referral process, you can direct them to the AADE website for more information and a referral form. You can also search the AADE website to find a diabetes education program in your area.4

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Written by: Jonathan Simmons & Heather Morse | Last reviewed: October 2020.