How to Navigate Social Stigmas with Health Conditions

Many people live with health conditions that they do their best to manage daily. But sometimes, interactions with unaware coworkers or even friends can temporarily impact well-being. These moments may be accompanied by fear, anxiety, guilt, or low self-esteem, which can take a toll on one's mental health. They can also cause a cascade of repercussions ranging from social isolation to decreased desire to manage diabetes and blood sugar.

Diabetes is common

There are 37.3 million Americans who have a form of diabetes. That equates to approximately 1 out of 10 people. In other words, you are likely not the only one in the room managing diabetes. It's common. Yet, research shows that 52 percent of people with type 2 diabetes feel that their diagnosis comes with a stigma. The results are magnified among people who require insulin for better diabetes control.1,2

Shattering the stigmas about type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes, like many other health conditions, experience social stigmas. Managing type 2 diabetes is a challenge that requires immense inner strength. These are a few tips below to help overcome these stigmas and help you feel empowered while managing type 2 diabetes. You are not alone!

1. Practice self-care

At some point, everyone needs a helping hand, even your body! So, show it some love by practicing self-care without judgment. Focus on one step towards a specific area of better disease management. Let go of perfection and embrace your humanity. Remember, you are important, and self-acceptance helps others understand and accept your experience with diabetes.

2. Create feelings of normalcy

Checking blood glucose or administering insulin may be part of your daily routine. How is it different from other health-promoting behaviors such as exercising, practicing good hygiene, or making positive food decisions? Be proud that you take control of your health!

3. Knowledge is power

If you are newly diagnosed, you may not yet understand what diabetes management entails, often feeding into your insecurity. But knowledge fuels confidence! Ask questions and learn about diabetes management from your diabetes community and members of your healthcare team.

4. Keep an open dialogue

Although diabetes is common, not everyone is knowledgeable about diabetes. Most people likely cannot explain the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, nor do they understand how each develops.

Getting exposed to routine behaviors, such as insulin injections, finger pricking, and hyper- or hypoglycemic episodes might be a new experience for others. Sharing your experiences can ultimately reinvent others' false perceptions of living with type 2 diabetes.

It's not your responsibility to educate everyone

Although educating the people around you can contribute to decreased stigma about diabetes, it ultimately is not your responsibility to do so, and it is exhausting.

You may be wondering, "why can't people just google about type 2 diabetes?" That's a valid question! But, unfortunately, it's not that simple. Some people aren't open to learning or aren't aware of their false perceptions about diabetes.

So, while it may not be your responsibility to educate others, sharing your experiences might help those around you have greater awareness to contribute to a more favorable environment for everyone.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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