Anger! What Do You Think It’s Good For?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some teenage boys who have diabetes. The reason I was working with them was because some people in their lives thought that their behavior with their diabetes and their attitudes when asked about it were less than pleasant. The people who brought the kids to me were doctors and parents, and the kids were not happy to be here.


In each of the sessions, we discussed the boys’ history of living with diabetes and the impact it had on them and their families. In all of these sessions, the boys said that they didn’t have a problem with diabetes—that it was no big deal except when the adults in their lives started bugging them about it. One kid was clear about his anger: His mom was making him pay more attention to his diabetes and he didn’t want to. She was a bit overinvolved, and he was getting ready to leave for college and didn’t want or need her continued nagging. His control was decent and was active enough with his self-care that he really didn’t need any further help.

The other two boys were pissed about everything: mom, school, the doctor, and me. They denied that they were angry, and meanwhile they were doing poorly in school, refusing to monitor blood glucose levels, and missing injections—their control was horrible.

In all of these kids the anger was on the surface, while underneath there were probably lots of other feelings and circumstances that could use some discussion. Some of these feelings were about diabetes (fear, sadness), and some were about other issues. The one boy who identified his anger directly was also later able to discuss his fears of leaving home and his frustration over not getting credit from his mom for the positive approach he has taken with his diabetes. The other two boys refused to discuss anything, but then again they refused to look at what seemed so apparent to everyone else: that they were lonely, scared, and afraid to appear vulnerable by asking for help.

In a way, anger was serving all of these kids well. It was buying them some distance from the feelings that were too difficult to deal with; for them, anger kept people and diabetes at a distance.

Anger with diabetes is challenging to deal with. Unless you have some good ways of managing anger before you get diabetes, it is likely to become a focus for your anger after you are diagnosed. I know some people who, after years of living with this condition, still wear their anger on their sleeves. This displaced anger is something I receive simply because I’m a psychologist.

There is a big difference for me between people who are angry and own it and express it directly and people who get angry at me simply because I represent yet another health-care professional who is trying to get them to do some things they don’t want to do. This is not my job; this is their perception.

I guess I’m writing this because anger is one of the feelings that arises often and, when it is directed well, can be useful to the individual. When it is not expressed directly, however, it is likely to come out in not-so-useful ways.

Has anger impacted you? In what way? Positively or negatively?

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  • MarkB

    I was diagnosed only a month ago. I’m shocked at the amount of anger I feel. It’s tied up with fear and helplessness.

    I try to accept and acknowledge all the emotions as they come, and express them in non-destructive ways, but this has been the most emotionally exhausting month of my life.

    The only good thing I can think of is that my anger gets my attention: it’s pretty hard to be in denial about having diabetes when I’m raging against it.

    Someone please tell me it gets easier, and that these emotions level out.

  • billhd

    Hi Mark,

    My diagnosis for Type II came in December. I was a bit angry at first too. And confused. I put that anger into exercise, mostly. And into learning what I could do to control my risk factors.

    I’m now in a weird place: I kind of like Diabetes. As my latest A1c, cholesterol, triglycerides, and BP numbers show…I am much healthier knowing about and treating it than I was when I didn’t know about it. Diabetes is working for me. Not as a problem, but as a way to simplify a range of risk factors that could shorten my life into something I can act on.

    So yeah, it can get better. Knowing now how your body works is the important thing. What you call it – the disease name –

  • sabrinadrh

    My daughter was diagnosed a year ago and anger (on my part) is a huge issue. The overwhelming feeling that this isn’t fair and nobody (especially my teen daughter) deserves this disease is a constant thought in the back of my mind. However the anger has gradually subsided and it does get better. The more we’ve learned about diabetes and self-care the more we feel we can control this disease. I feel that there are certain stages of accepting such a diagnosis and for me anger was one thing I had to deal with. The anger seemed to be wrapped up with the fear of the unknown, but knowledge has helped me to deal with this.

  • Scott K. Johnson

    Great article Joe.

    I was diagnosed 27 years ago, and the anger comes and goes. Sometimes it serves be positively (by helping me refuse to give in), but other times it hinders me by paralyzing me.

    The cycle of emotions comes and goes.

  • Ephrenia

    Hi Mark,
    I was angry, but more scared when I first got my diagnosis. Angry at myself for not realizing what I had been doing to my body. Angry at diabetes for not waiting til I was 60. Dispairing because I’ve already had arthritis all my life, I already had asthma develop 10 years ago. Wasn’t that enough?

    But it does get better. I got mad enough to want to be the one in control. I was scared of complications. I want to keep my toes! I changed my Way Of Eating (notice I don’t say diet! Diet implies temporary, and this isn’t!) to something a lot more healthy. I can do this because I don’t deny myself. I just limit amounts of those hi-carb things I love.

    And exercise. I joined Curves. I go as often as I can – usually 6 days a week.

    I’ve lost 70 lbs (another 100 or so to go) And guess what… these changes have helped my asthma, too!

    Yes. It does get better. You learn to adjust. And you can even come out on top!

  • Garnet

    It does get better. I have been diabetic for 41 years. I remember boiling my syringes, and only being able to eat at certain times and testing my urine with a test tube. Now I count carbs, throw away my syringes when I am done with then and test my blood. I can keep everything in one small bag and have much better control.
    Remember that there are different kinds of support everywhere and you are not alone. One thing that I learned over the years is you can control the diebeties or it can control you. Read as much as you can, there is new information daily. I hope this helps, it does get easier. Everything is scary until you know about it.



  • Concerned Wife

    My husband was diagnosed with type2 diabetes 2 years ago. He is becoming increasingly angry it seems and its happening more often. The sligtest thing can send him on the deep end. I now try to just apologize when hes upset but its becoming depressing for me. I dont know what to do when he goes into one of his spells.

  • Chris

    I have been a type 1 Diabetic since I was 11 years old and I am now 27. I have rage and anger issues that are so bad they scare people and myself. I have lost a wife already and my girl of 1 year has just walked out on me. All because I have rage and anger! In both relationships I was arrested for uddering threats. I am so scared for myself and others I want to get better. I am a successful business man and it seems I always hurt the ones I love. Never at work or in public. I have been on Effexor for 3 years now and my doctor has just prescribed Wellbutren another anti depressant. I will do anything to get my life back I have none anymore cause I have single handedly pissed every one off or hurt them. There has to be a reason for this if anyone can help please let me know like I said I will do anything.

  • Just Me

    I was unlucky enough to survive pancreatic cancer. That’s right, unlucky. I’m a recovering addict, so I’ve had no reprieve from reality for 25 years. Then I got cancer and had to give up my tobacco habit. Then I survived the cancer with only 1/3rd of a functioning pancreas only to have all spontaneity and enjoyment in my life stripped away one millimeter at a time by this pointless malaise.

    Me? Angry? Like a swarm of hornets.

    But what makes me even madder are the Pollyannish morons who try to tell me how “lucky” I am to have to suffer this chronic disease because God didn’t have the decency to kill me outright 5 years ago. And then there are the doctors who keep harping on me to lose weight and deal with high cholesterol in the midst of all this. Yeah, real easy to deal with that when you have a hypoglycemic crash at least twice a week.

    Me? Angry? I can’t imagine why. Anyone who isn’t angry in this sort of effed-up situation is either an idiot or not paying attention.

  • You are Not Alone

    If you are facing family issues, always remember, you are not alone. Someone,
    somewhere in this world is facing the same issue as you. Go ahead and
    speak your mind, you will feel better. Remember, by being anonymous, it will be
    easier for you to better express what you are going through. No matter what
    happens, I can re-assure you that it will past. It is always good to talk about
    your issues. If you have nowhere else to turn to, please use this platform to
    vent a little because it will make you feel better.

  • Janice Harrison

    I have mostly come to terms with type 1 diabetes, which I have had since April 1, 1996. I do have periods where I experience real anger, usually at people who do not understand what it is like to live with this disease. For example, I tutor special-needs kids in their homes, and this one woman asked me to take my shoes off in her house because she does not want to ruin her new carpet (they just moved into the house!). I had to take bedroom slippers over there today and change into them at the front door. Frankly, I wanted to throw a rock through their front window. Very insensitive and rude and only concerned about appearances. If they had to deal with a disease they had to worry about every minute, they might have more important things to worry about than what the effin carpet looks like!! I think the stupidity of people towards those of us who have this disease–and I am in good control, no complications at all since 1996–is what bothers me the most. So I can really blow my stack sometimes and my NJ upbringing and swear words can really come out.

  • Erik S

    Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 19 while I was on active duty for 1 year in my 6 year enlistment. I’m now 28 and the last 3 and half years have been hell with anger and short moments (hour or two) of depression – Strong suicidal thoughts. Prior to this I never even knew what anger was. I always accepted news good or bad as a challenge that I looked forward to facing, never running away hoping someone else would solve my problems. But now, I’m on the verge of death every 6-9 months it would seem, exploding into rage, punching computer monitors, breaking hands, punching walls, flipping furniture, etc. My physical expression of anger has never been directed towards an individual even the ones who I feel cause me to snap – However, the longer this continues I will either wind up hurting myself or someone I care about.

    What’s crazier is now that I’m finally looking into my issues I’m finding it pretty f’d up that there are so many other Type 1’s out there who are raging as bad as me. I’m going to seek help but not at the cost of my life savings and not from an expert who only knows about my struggles from a 3rd hand account they read about. I have a very firm belief that if “you haven’t walked it, then you can’t talk it” for me type of attitude. If anyone still frequents this post send me a comment if you got any suggestions or just want to vent.

    • Anger Stuff

      I feel like this all the time. Things that shouldn’t bother me make me so impatient that I want to kill whoever is doing them. Everything feels like an inconvenience, and I sometimes look at my attitude and think, man, there is something physically wrong with me. It’s like a permanent nagging pressure headache that makes you want to hurt people, but thankfully I get too lazy and my rational self kicks in to keep me from actually doing it. I can be three different people at any point of the day because I am having to constantly shift from one state of mind/body to another. Sometimes I just stop caring because it’s too much to fight and emotionally shut down. I used to break things when I got mad with no control, yell at people I love, say mean things, all sorts of stuff. It’s like I have a zombie infection that handicaps my brain and only lets me function at fractional levels.

  • Diane Fennell

    Hi Erik,

    I’m sorry to hear about the difficult time you’ve been having. One thing you might want to look into is diabetes support groups in your area. You can find a listing of local support groups by going to the “In My Community” page on the American Diabetes Association’s Web site, typing your zip code into the “Find Your Local Office” search field and pressing “Go,” and then scanning the menu bar in the upper left-hand corner of the resulting page for support groups.

    Also, to speak with a trained crisis worker, you can make a free phone call to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

    Best wishes,
    Diane Fennell
    Web Editor

  • Kirk

    I was diagnosed about 2 months ago, unlike others, I do not deny my diabetes (type 1) but I am frustrated by its limitations. Also I’ve become extremely stressed out with school, I’m having a hard balancing out my studies and keeping my grades high, while trying to maintain a social life. I’ve noticed that I often get these random anger periods, where I will become extremely angry at any person who is near me or talks to me (I also tend to become angry when I reach hypoglycemia). I’ve come looking for answers for anger issues for people with diabetes, because today all hell broke lose. For the first time ever I had a huge fight with my family (3 sisters and my parents), they were all against me and I’ve ne’er seen myself like this. It’s like someone else took over and I couldn’t control. I don’t want to go over the details but basically my father is threatening to throw me out, my sisters are telling me they don’t want me as a brother and I’m a “worthless pier of crap”. I don’t know what to do, it’s 11pm and I can’t stop crying all alone. These anger issues have turned my family against me. I don’t know where to go from here. I am a 16 year old male.

  • adam

    I am 33 years old and was diagnosed with type 1 insulin dependent diabetes at the early age of three . I am married with three young children. I have always had rage and no Dr ever brought up my diabetes. I have been to Dr of all kinds and no help no suggestions. The last time I saw my shrink I have been telling him I have bad anxiety real bad . I did some research and reading the side affects of insulin . So I told him can you imagine since 3 having no less than three shots a day of insulin. The kind of anxiety I have and he about lost it . Not one Dr my entire life caught that. He was very surprised and seem to change his mind about all my issues