Type 1 Diabetes: What is Diabetes Burnout?

Plus, 10 signs to watch for and resources

Do you feel overwhelmed managing your type 1 diabetes and never feel like you can get it under control? Maybe you feel like you’re ready to go on “strike” with your type 1 diabetes and ignore all your doctor’s advice? Or maybe you don’t care anymore about managing type 1 diabetes and want to give up?

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If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be feeling diabetes burnout. It’s something that is quite common — especially among those with type 1 diabetes who are diagnosed earlier in life.

See below for 10 questions to consider when it comes to type 1 diabetes burnout 

Diabetes burnout happens when someone living with the condition feels overwhelmed and overburdened by their condition. This happens to nearly everyone living with diabetes at some point and to different degrees. 

Experts stress the importance of not giving up. The downward spiral of poor self-management of diabetes has obvious consequences. High levels of distress have been linked to poor blood sugar control, lack of self-care and poor quality of life, according to a study in Diabetes Care. There’s also an emotional impact. Negative feelings towards diabetes care-related tasks can range from anger, depression, frustration and hopelessness.

Recognize the signs of type 1 diabetes burnout

Your health-care provider can examine you for signs of frustration and burnout. They may rely on standardized tools to help determine your distress level. There’s a two-question test — called the Diabetes Distress Scale (DDS2) — that asks respondents to rate on a six-point scale the degree to which the following items cause distress: feeling overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes, and feeling that they are often failing with their diabetes regimen. If there are any problems identified through these questions, your doctor may use a 17-item questionnaire (called DDS17) that pinpoints the distress to figure out ways to intervene and help.

Get support for type 1 diabetes burnout
Finding support from family, friends and coworkers may help you better manage your diabetes. Please don’t try to do everything yourself, experts advise. If you’re family and friends are not providing what you need, there is an “etiquette” sheet available at the Behavioral Diabetes Institute that was developed by psychologist William Polonsky, PhD, CDE, author of Diabetes Burnout.

The tip sheet helps those without diabetes better understand what you need. There are 10 tips in all, but the first piece of advice is: “DON’T offer unsolicited advice about my eating or other aspects of diabetes. You may mean well, but giving advice about someone’s personal habits, especially when it is not requested, isn’t very nice. Besides, many of the popularly held beliefs about diabetes (‘you should just stop eating sugar’) are out of date or just plain wrong.”

If you don’t get the support you need from your loved ones, experts recommend finding online diabetes support groups like the Diabetes Online Community, tudiabetes.org or other groups through Facebook where you can find support through new online friends.

10 signs of type 1 diabetes Burnout

Ask yourself these questions to figure out if you’re experiencing diabetes burnout.

  1. Feel ready to go on “strike” with your diabetes and ignore all your doctor’s advice?
  2. Overwhelmed managing your diabetes and never feel like you’ll ever get it under control?
  3. Are you angry, frustrated or experiencing other strong feelings about caring for diabetes?
  4. Do you feel like giving up when it comes to managing your diabetes?
  5. Have you convinced yourself that living with high blood glucose levels is OK?
  6. Are you lying to your loved ones about managing your condition?
  7. Do you feel your best is not good enough to control your diabetes?
  8. Do you feel frustrated with diabetes management and your numbers are out of range?
  9. Have you started eating junk food and avoiding healthier meals?
  10. Are you telling yourself that diabetes complications won’t happen to you?

Books on type 1 diabetes burnout

Want to learn more about diabetes burnout? Read “How to Avoid Diabetes Burnout” and “Diabetes Burnout: What It Is and How to Handle It.”

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