Emotional toll of diabetes ‘needs more recognition’

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Many people living with diabetes are struggling with related emotional problems – an issue that needs support and recognition, a charity says.

Diabetes UK surveyed 8,500 people about diabetes and how it affected their daily life.

Three in five said their condition made them feel down.

Of those in employment, 16% felt discriminated against at work – and 7% had not even told their employer about their diabetes.

Clare (not her real name), 26, says she had to quit her job as a management consultant as a direct result of her diabetes.

She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13.

Despite being one of 4.5 million people affected by the condition in the UK, she says the “lack of understanding” she encountered in the workplace left her feeling “frustrated, anxious and stressed”.

“I was constantly undermined and told that my diabetes wasn’t that serious,” says Clare.

“This included being told off for having medical appointments during the day, and being made to feel bad for talking about my diabetes.

“I don’t want to be treated differently, but sometimes I need to be treated differently,” she tells BBC News.

“You’re young and in your 20s and people on the Tube look at you and ask, ‘Why do you need a seat?’

“No-one knows I have an insulin pump attached to my bra, my blood sugars are being monitored and I am constantly thinking about food.”

She says her employers “never sat down and talked to me about it”.

In an appraisal, she was told she needed “to manage her health anxiety”.

“Eventually, I decided that enough was enough, and I quit my job so I could spend some time taking care of myself,” she says.

She says diabetes “is not a dirty secret – it’s part of my life”.

“There needs to be more talking in the workplace – and more flexibility.”

Life-changing

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes – type 1 and type 2 – is on the rise.

According to Diabetes UK, about 700 people are diagnosed every day.

And it’s a life-changing diagnosis.

Those affected often have to check their blood sugars up to 10 times a day and plan their meal breaks – and what they will be eating – factoring in any exercise they may be doing.

Trips to the toilet can break up a night’s sleep.

And then there can be hypos – when blood sugars drop dangerously low.


Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood sugar to become too high.

  • Type 1 can develop at any age, but often begins in childhood. It is not related to diet or lifestyle
  • Type 2 is far more common than type 1, but is still rare in childhood. It is usually seen in adults and is often associated with obesity
  • It is important to keep blood sugar under control to prevent health complications
  • Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include – feeling very thirsty, passing urine more often than usual, particularly at night and feeling very tired

The latest research – published to mark World Diabetes Day – cites six areas where Diabetes UK believes treatment could be improved, including:

  • better access to specialist healthcare professionals
  • broader emotional support following a diagnosis

“Effective diabetes care requires that a person’s emotional needs are taken into account alongside their physical care needs,” said Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK.

“We want to see a system where specialist support – from people who understand diabetes – is made available to those who need it.”

Healthcare professionals can provide help and support.

Emotional toll of diabetes ‘needs more recognition’

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