What Is Diabetes Distress?

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Diabetes Distress, commonly known as Diabetes Burnout, is a condition where one grows frustrated from managing their health.

Diabetes can be relentless, with individuals having to constantly monitor their blood glucose levels, take their medication, balance nutritional intake with physical activity, undertake regular screenings, and manage their stress levels. As a result, burnout is common due to the emotional toll this can have.

Burnout can manifest as feelings of anger, frustration and isolation to more detrimental behaviour such as avoiding appointments and taking medications.

One client who has experienced diabetes burnout explained that in order to cope and to try and gain control of the spiralling feeling of being burnt out, she found it easier to avoid taking medication and not monitor blood glucose levels.

”I became tired of being deemed as non-compliant and being judged by health professionals”. As a result, she would regularly miss scheduled appointments, especially if her blood glucose levels were high.

Those who avoid appointments or taking their medication over an extended period risk serious health consequence such as blindness, kidney and nerve damage.

Since her initial consultation, the client has been working with the diabetes services team along with a psychologist specialising in diabetes burnout to create a tailored action plan to overcome her issues.

If you worry that you, a loved one or a client might be suffering from diabetes burnout, watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Unstable blood glucose levels
  • Missed clinic appointments
  • Reduced engagement in diabetes self-care tasks
  • Ineffective coping strategies
  • Multiple life stressors
  • Chronic stress
  • Impaired relationships (personal or with health professionals)
  • Appearing passive/aggressive during consultations

To learn more about diabetes burnout and how to address and overcome the condition, read the following resources:

Diabetes distress 7 A’s model

Diabetes Distress Factsheet

Problem Areas In Diabetes (PAID) scale

About Kendra Nunweek-Hanlon

Kendra is a Registered Nurse and Credentialled Diabetes Educator, with over 18 years of specialty diabetes experience across the public and private sector. Her certifications include Master of Science (Diabetes) and Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education, Kendra has also held the position of Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator at Curtin University.