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November 8, 2023

Emotional Well-Being and Diabetes: How Behavioral Health Therapy can Help

by Susan Kornett, LCMHC, LCAS, CCS

Living with diabetes is not just a physical challenge; it’s an emotional journey, too. As a behavioral health therapist, I’ve seen the profound impact that diabetes can have on a person’s emotional well-being. The constant monitoring, medication, and lifestyle adjustments can take a toll on mental health.

Together, let’s explore the crucial connection between diabetes management and emotional well-being, and how behavioral health therapy can play a pivotal role in promoting a healthier and happier life for those with diabetes.

Understanding the Emotional Rollercoaster of Diabetes

Managing diabetes involves more than just checking blood sugar levels and taking medications. It’s a lifelong commitment to making daily choices that can be emotionally challenging over time. Here are some of the emotional experiences that people with diabetes commonly encounter:

Anxiety: The constant worry about blood sugar levels, the fear of hypoglycemia, or the potential complications of uncontrolled diabetes can lead to anxiety. Worry, frustration, and feelings of overwhelm and fatigue can seep in and cloud one’s peace of mind.

Depression: The nature of relentlessness that diabetes brings can sometimes lead to feelings of helplessness, sadness, and depression. People may feel overwhelmed and fatigued by the constant need to manage their condition. The sensations of helplessness and hopelessness can zap one’s energy and make even mundane, simple daily activities feel like monumental chores.

Guilt and Blame: Some individuals may blame themselves for developing diabetes, even when it’s not within their control. Self-blame and guilt can be emotionally draining. These feelings often come with images of being an unwelcome and unnecessary burden on our loved ones, and this only intensifies the guilt/blame experience.

Social Isolation: Diabetes can affect one’s social life, making it challenging to dine out, enjoy parties, or participate in activities without careful planning. The need to monitor blood sugar and ensure glucose stability often requires additional trips, stops, rest periods, and material baggage that can be embarrassing to us and feel like we’re placing a burden upon friends, family, and associates. As such, we may decline offers to engage with others. The isolation that comes with avoidance of social opportunities can lead to feelings of loneliness.

Promoting Emotional Well-Being

Behavioral health therapy plays a vital role in helping individuals with diabetes navigate the complex landscape of their emotions. Here are some ways in which therapy can contribute to emotional well-being:

Emotional Support: A behavioral health therapist can provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to express their fears and concerns related to diabetes. Talking through these emotions can be incredibly therapeutic by reducing feelings of isolation and overwhelming emotions.

Coping Strategies: Therapists can teach valuable coping strategies that help individuals manage the stress and emotional turmoil that diabetes can bring. Techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and stress management skills can be instrumental for developing one’s feelings of empowerment and confidence.

Behavior Modification: Behavioral therapy can assist individuals in setting and achieving realistic goals for diabetes management. This can help in developing healthier lifestyle habits which can, in turn, have a positive impact on both physical and emotional well-being.

Communication Skills: Diabetes management often involves not only self-management but also discussions with healthcare providers, family, and friends. Behavioral health therapy can enhance self-advocacy and communication skills, making it easier to express needs and concerns to others.

Building Resilience: Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. Therapy can help individuals develop resilience, enabling them to better manage the challenges and setbacks associated with diabetes, leading to a more proactive and robust life experience.

How Behavioral Health Therapy Can Help

Behavioral health therapy encompasses a wide range of therapeutic approaches that can be tailored to an individual’s specific needs. Below are a few of these interventions and how they can assist individuals with diabetes:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely used approach that helps individuals identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more constructive ones. For people with diabetes, this can be particularly helpful in managing anxiety, depression, and negative self-perceptions related to their condition.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR teaches individuals to be present in the moment and reduce stress through meditation and mindfulness exercises. It can be invaluable for managing the daily stresses of diabetes.

Support Groups: Participating in support groups with others who have diabetes can be emotionally uplifting. These groups provide a sense of belonging and allow individuals to share experiences, strategies, and emotions related to diabetes with empathetic and understanding peers.

Family Therapy: Diabetes impacts not only the individual but also their family. Family therapy can help improve communication and provide support for everyone involved.

Biofeedback and Relaxation Techniques: These approaches teach individuals how to control their physiological responses to stress, such as muscle tension and heart rate. Learning to manage these responses can reduce anxiety, physical tension, and promote emotional well-being.

Solution-Focused Therapy: This approach helps individuals identify their strengths and resources to find solutions to the challenges diabetes presents. It is about focusing on what can be done, rather than dwelling on the worry or problem.

Emotional well-being is an integral part of managing diabetes effectively. Behavioral health therapy is part of a total wellness approach to diabetes care that addresses not only the physical aspects but also the emotional challenges that come with the condition.

There is much to be gained by engaging in behavioral health therapy. If you or someone you know is struggling with diabetes-related emotional distress, consider reaching out to an Avance Care Behavioral Health Therapist. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. There are resources available to help you thrive while living with diabetes. Together, we can work towards a happier and healthier life with diabetes.

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