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Coping with a diabetes diagnosis

If you've just been diagnosed with diabetes can be a huge shock and you might be finding it difficult to come to terms with. It’s important to know that whatever you’re feeling is completely normal and you are not alone. 

Whether you have just been diagnosed  with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, or whether you’ve lived with diabetes for a long time, you may need support for your emotional wellbeing. Perhaps you feel stressed, depressed, or burnt out. The people around you can feel all of this too. 

In the weeks and months after you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you and the people close to you will have lots of questions about your condition and what this will mean for your future. 

With so much to think about and so many changes to make, you may feel like you're not coping with diabetes and need some support. 

This is where we can help. We have advice to help you cope with being diagnosed with diabetes and we can show you where to go for more support.

Here's Zena opening up about how it felt to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and what helped her feel more supported.

Coping with the emotional impact of your diabetes diagnosis

When newly diagnosed, it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that diabetes is a serious condition. It's lifelong for people with type 1 diabetes and can be lifelong for many people with type 2 diabetes too. 

Changing what you eat, trying to do more exercise or taking medication can feel daunting. But many people with diabetes say that they get used to these changes and find balance in their life.

It’s perfectly normal to feel angry, shocked, numb, low and overwhelmed in the weeks and months following your diabetes diagnosis. We also know that depression is twice as common in people with diabetes, so it’s important to open up to someone and seek professional help if you feel depressed.

Everyone is different and how you and your family cope with your diabetes diagnosis will vary. One day you might feel positive about managing your condition and the next you feel less motivated. 

But you don't need to go through this alone. Getting the emotional support you need is just as important as any other part of your treatment.

If you’re the carer or parent of someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes, you might experience these difficult emotions too. It's important for you to also get the help and support you need

Coming to terms with having diabetes

When you’re diagnosed with diabetes it can bring with it a great sense of loss. And after diagnosis, most people go through a period of mourning, which involves acknowledging your grief, anger and fear. This process is an important part of your emotional recovery, so don’t be tempted to rush or overlook it.

"It was a lonely moment for me because I didn't know anyone with the condition. I felt very much in the dark and that was scary."

- Robin

Remember that everyone is different and how you and your family cope with your diabetes diagnosis will vary. You might find that one day you feel positive and motivated to manage your condition and the next you feel low and hopeless. 

Be kind to yourself and celebrate small successes. Starting a mood diary or journal can be a great way to keep track of your emotions and spot any links between how you feel physically and emotionally. It’s also important to open up to someone you can trust. You can share your diabetes peak (success) and diabetes pit (difficulty) of the day or week with them, to help make it easier for you to talk about how diabetes makes you feel.

As time goes on, you will adjust to your new way of life and you’ll become more confident in your ability to cope with the demands that diabetes can throw at you. Difficult emotions might come back at times, but if they don’t last too long, try not worry about it. It can be hard to feel positive about your diabetes all the time.

There are lots of things you can do to help yourself. And we have loads of information and support to help you cope.

Stress

Stress doesn't cause diabetes but it can affect your blood sugar levels and how you look after your condition. Having diabetes to manage on top of life’s normal ups and downs can itself be stressful. It’s not always easy to live with and this can also feel harder when many people don’t understand it. Find out more about diabetes and stress.

Depression

Depression is a serious a condition, but it can be treated. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad or down for more than two weeks, lack of interest and pleasure in your normal activities and other symptoms such as problems sleeping, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your GP or healthcare team.There are different ways that people manage or treat depression. Your doctor may advise you to talk to a professional, recommend medication or point you towards Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Getting support from family or friends or other people who have had similar experiences may also help.

Get help from your diabetes healthcare team

Getting emotional and psychological support from your healthcare team is part of your 15 healthcare essentials. This is the care and support you're entitled to when you have diabetes. 

It’s important to start getting this care as soon as you’re diagnosed with diabetes.

Taking the following steps with your healthcare team will help you to come to terms with your diagnosis and get the right support:

  • write down your thoughts, feelings and questions before your appointment
  • ask someone you trust to go with you to your appointments
  • if a carer or someone close to you comes to your appointment with you, ask them to make notes so you don’t have to worry about remembering every detail
  • be honest about your health and how you’re really feeling
  • get the information you need, at your own pace
  • understand your new responsibilities and the part you play in managing your diabetes
  • don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling with any of the impacts of diabetes, however small or big the issue feels. 

Take a look at our information on meeting your healthcare team and how to get the most out of your appointments with them. 

Find out how Kaja coped with being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and what advice she has for others.

Talk to people who understand diabetes

Being diagnosed with diabetes can make you feel isolated and you might find it difficult to open up about how you’re feeling. But talking to people who understand you can really help. And over time, you may even find your own community.

Family and friends

It can help to talk to a family member or friend that you trust. These conversations can be difficult at times, so we have put together some tips to help you talk about your diabetes with your friends and family.

Our helpline

Talk to a trained counsellor on our helpline. They can give you information about your condition, take time to talk things through and explore how you’re feeling.

Our online forum

Our forum is an online community where you can exchange knowledge and experiences with other people with diabetes. It even has a group for new people, giving you the chance to find out how other people are coping with their diagnosis. You don’t have to sign up, you can just observe the conversations if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Local groups

It can be helpful to meet other people who live with diabetes and talk about your experiences. Our local groups can offer understanding, help and support at an important time.

Type 1 Events

Type 1 Events events can be life-changing experiences for children and young people with type 1 diabetes and their family. They are also a great way to form new friendships and try out new activities.

Other support

You may also want to get more professional support and speak to a counsellor face-to-face. Speak to your GP or hospital team and they will advise you on how you can do this.

“The psychologist showed me my feelings were justified and I wasn't doing everything wrong. It felt like someone understood what it was like.”

- Zena

Support for family and carers

Most things are easier to face with help from friends and family. But diabetes can put a strain on relationships. It can help to listen to, and communicate with, everyone in the family including children.

Sometimes it can be hard supporting a person with diabetes, even if it’s your partner, child or close family member. You could be worried about them or trying hard to encourage them to make lifestyle changes. 

You may need support for your emotions as well. Remember, all of Diabetes UK’s support services are also there for you.

If you are working you may need time off to support someone with diabetes. Find out your employer’s policy on care leave. Talk to your manager about the condition and how you’re helping, so they understand how important it is. Discuss options for flexible working if you need to give long-term support.

We've also got more information on supporting someone who lives with diabetes.

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