Mental Health and Why You Should Consider Seeing a Professional
Managing emotions is just as important as managing blood glucose! Why? If your mental health is struggling, chances are that your physical health is too.
Mental health and type 2 diabetes
I know, I know...add one more thing to the list of things to keep in check or specialists to see. You’ve got to check your eyes, your feet, blah blah blah... But yes, mental health is important, especially in diabetes. Make sure to reach out for help as needed, including dealing with difficult emotions about diabetes and managing stress.
Mental health versus mental illness
Now notice I say mental health and not mental illness! That’s right, there is a difference.
Mental illness or mental disorders are actually very common. In fact, 1 in 5 individuals has a diagnosable mental disorder.1 They range from anything like mild depression to more severe psychotic disorders. Believe it or not, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and affects 1 in 4 individuals with diabetes.2,3
Mental health, on the other hand, is something EVERYONE has. And, just like physical health, it is important to take steps to care for our mental health. This means things like practicing healthy coping, tapping into support systems, and managing our daily stress. And, just like we get minor injuries and illnesses like colds that affect our physical health, life itself involves challenges that affect our mental health too.
Difficult times are to be expected
Life is full of highs and lows. Losing loved ones, experiencing difficult relationships, getting fired from a job, parenting, dealing with a health condition (ahem, especially a complex one like diabetes), are just a few major life struggles to mention.
With these things come a range of not-so-pleasant emotions. This is normal! That’s right, we will all feel depressed or anxious every now and then. Given specific circumstances, this is actually expected.
I should also mention that mental health challenges such as stress, depression, anxiety, grief (just to name a few), can also take a physical toll. They often involve physical symptoms such as fatigue, disturbance in appetite, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and even minor aches and pains.
How can a professional help?
So, in dealing with life’s normal and expected challenges, many people find it helpful to talk with a professional. A mental health provider can help you to better handle the emotional and physical roller coaster of life challenges. Beyond some of the obvious ones like depression, phobias, addictions, etc. A provider can help with things like gaining insight into your own behaviors, managing stress and developing healthy coping skills, improving relationships, and enhancing motivation and direction toward your goals.
When you add diabetes to the mix, it’s going to test your mental strength! Diabetes is a self-managed, complex, and chronic condition. That means that it requires a lot of mental energy, motivation, and support. Not to mention other diabetes-related struggles like burnout, diabetes distress, perfectionism, judgement, shame stigma, impacts on relationships, etc.
All of this is to say that diabetes requires you to be on the top of your game in order to fulfill all of the demands and challenges that go along with it.
Finding a mental health professional
A solid healthcare team and support network goes a long way. And, regardless of other challenges you may be facing, you may find it helpful to have the added support of a mental health provider on your team. Check out the ADA Mental Health Provider Directory for providers in your area who have received additional training in diabetes.
Getting professional help is especially important when diagnosable mental illnesses are involved, as they can complicate your ability to manage diabetes. But, even with mental illnesses, they are treatable. Depending on your specific challenge, counseling, medication, or a combination of the two are recommended.
Normalize talking about mental health
The more we talk about our own struggles and recognize how common mental health challenges are, the closer we are to squashing the stigma around it. This will not only help people to reach out for help when they need it, but also help people feel better and take better care of themselves! Let’s normalize conversation around mental health and the importance of seeking care for mental health, just as we do for physical health.
How well does your doctor explain diabetes care terms to you?