Diabetes is a metabolic disorder — technically, a group of metabolic disorders — where a person has trouble producing or responding to the hormone insulin, which leads to abnormal processing of carbohydrates and high levels of glucose in the blood and urine.
It’s one of the most common disorders, affecting about 415 million people around the world — roughly 8.5 percent of the population. But even though it’s so common, there are a lot of things about diabetes that many people don’t know.
There are actually three different kinds of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Although they all come with similar problems related to lack of insulin, all three have different causes and require different methods to manage their respective symptoms and other effects.
Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease where, for reasons not yet understood, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin. Because insulin is a key hormone to get the glucose from your food into your brain, muscles, and organs, people with type 1 diabetes must have their insulin replaced regularly.
Not Quite Accurate
Type 1 diabetes is called juvenile diabetes because it can show up even in infants. However, that name is somewhat misleading. While it s typically diagnosed in people under 40 years old, type 1 diabetes can occur at any age.
The More Common Type
In total, type 1 diabetes accounts for less than 10 percent of all cases. Nearly all of the rest of the people with diabetes suffer from type 2 diabetes. For those people, the pancreas still makes insulin but the amount it makes is significantly reduced.
The insulin in people with type 2 diabetes is also less effective because the person develops an insulin resistance. Compared to type 1 diabetes, there is a much better understanding of what factors add to a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
While there is a strong genetic component to it, the risk of type 2 diabetes is significantly increased through lifestyle factors. Having high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, not getting enough exercise, eating an unhealthy diet, and having an “apple shape” body type all increase a person’s risk.
Gestational diabetes is the third type and as the name implies, it is related to pregnancy. The hormonal changes that occur when carrying a baby can lead to a buildup of glucose in the blood. When your body can’t produce enough insulin to keep up with the elevated blood sugar levels, it can cause gestational diabetes.
It affects around 6 percent of pregnant women and if they properly manage their blood sugar levels, doesn’t adversely affect the health of their baby. Gestational diabetes fortunately goes away once the child is born, most of the time. Unfortunately, it does increase the risk that the mother will later develop type 2 diabetes.
With type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the effect on the life of an affected person is unending. It can mean checking blood sugar levels several times a day, counting carbohydrates in every meal, taking various injections and medications, or having to wear an insulin pump. If blood sugar is not properly maintained, a person with diabetes risks blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart attack and nerve damage.
It is not easy maintaining proper insulin levels, either. Blood glucose levels can be unpredictable, since they are affected by exercise, stress, food, and hormones for a diabetic person. It adds an extra layer of stress into the person’s life on top of whatever else they may be dealing with.
That stress has a tangible impact on the lives of people suffering with diabetes, so much so that they are more likely than the rest of the population to suffer from depression. Some studies have shown that risk to be twice as high.
There is also a condition known as “diabetes burn out.” Essentially, a person with diabetes may find themselves suffering from exhaustion and extreme apathy toward their own self-care. The person has great difficulty finding the motivation to continue doing their blood glucose checks, medications, exercise, and insulin injections.
Frustration And Distress
Burn out happens most often for people who work very hard at managing their diabetes only to be frustrated that their results aren’t as good as planned. The burn out can lead to more guilt, self-hatred, and stress, which can demotivate the individual further, creating a vicious cycle.
Burn out often occurs when other difficulties happen in life, such as during times of major transition, like family or relationship troubles, the loss of a loved one, substance abuse problems, or any other circumstance that causes elevated stress. If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes, it’s good to remain on the lookout during such times.
Finding The Path
The key to managing diabetes is to find the proper path between stress and worry about the disorder, and complacency with one’s habits. It helps to have a clear idea about what your goals are and what you’re capable of doing at the moment to move toward those goals.
Having a strong support network around also makes managing diabetes much easier. Beyond just support from your doctor, talking with family, friends, loved ones and others with diabetes can be a big help. If you don’t know anyone else with diabetes, there are a number of diabetes support communities online.
Being able to feel in control of your life makes managing diabetes much easier, and when things start to feel as if they may be getting out of control, a support group can help. Exercise and relaxation strategies will also help reduce stress and feelings of powerlessness.
Change Of Mind
Finally, diabetes management can be made easier simply by changing the way you think and talk about it. Using the words “high” and “low” to describe blood glucose levels instead of “good” and “bad,” and using “checking” levels instead of “testing” them. These subtle changes may seem small but can have a big impact on how you perceive your condition, and, as a result, how you feel about yourself.
Despite your best efforts to remain on top of everything, there will most likely be times when you begin to feel overwhelmed by everything. It’s important to recognize this fact before it happens so that when you do find yourself facing a potential burn out, you can pick up on the signs and take action before things go to far.
Consult A Professional
Before taking any serious steps regarding diabetes or your mental health, reach out to your doctor or the appropriate health professional for their advice. Like your friends and family, they are there to help.