Talking about diabetes isn’t always easy. But opening up could make sure you get help with diabetes if you need it.
It can be hard to get started, or it’s just not the right moment. Maybe it’s easier to deal with your diabetes alone.
But even a listening ear can help relieve the frustration of managing diabetes, particularly on a bad day. Parents and family members are often good listeners, but if you’ve just started a new relationship, talking openly about your diabetes may help you understand each other better.
Who can I talk to about diabetes?
Even talking to other people with diabetes that you’ve just met can take a weight off your mind and make you feel better because you’re not on your own. But it can be hard to know where to start, so we've put together some tips on how to start that conversation.
"Sometimes just being able to talk through some of the issues we're facing can make a real difference."
Jeanagh, one of our volunteers
Why talk about diabetes?
Diabetes takes up time and talking about it may be the last thing on your mind. You may want to get on with managing your diabetes in your own way. Or if you’re recently diagnosed, you may need time to digest all this new information. Everyone’s situation is different and talking is often hard, especially when it comes to your own health.
But opening up to people and explaining how diabetes affects your daily life can be a real eye opener – for you and for your listener. Sharing the burden of your diabetes will help you feel less alone with your diabetes. It can take a weight off your mind and bring feelings of relief. Just hearing the words out loud can help you process your thoughts. It can stop you feeling locked in a cycle of worry and make you less anxious.
Talking can help you think differently about your diabetes too. Relating to other people with diabetes could bring positive changes and help you work through daily challenges, such as feeling anxious about blood sugar levels, or trying to find the right time to take injections.
We know lots of people find it difficult to find the right time and place to start the conversation about telling people about your diabetes. Our tips will support you and show you how to begin your conversations.
Here's John talking about how he got help with his diabetes by opening up and talking about it.
Explaining diabetes to your friends and family is difficult. But always remember, they are on your side and want to help.
Decide what you do and don’t want to talk about
Think about the topics you’re happy to talk about in advance. You can tell your friend or family member there are certain things you’d rather not discuss. This will make the conversation flow the way you’d like it to and give you control of the direction it takes.
Bring them into the conversation
Your friends and family care about you very much. If you’re struggling, they’ll be concerned and want to know more. Let them ask questions and offer support.
Allow them to ask questions later
Sometimes conversations are overwhelming for everyone. When talking about your diabetes, reassure your friend or family member that they’re fine to come back to you with anything else they might want to talk about. Allow them to think about what you’ve told them before talking again.
Tell them how they can help
Your friend or family member cares about you, and they’re keen to help in any way they can. For you this may mean them ignoring your diabetes completely and treating you normally. You may want them to join your new diet. You may need emotional support. Be open about what it is you need from them. This will avoid confusion and help you communicate better.
Once your friends and family know about your condition, you may get unwelcome comments like ‘should you be eating that?’ This can be annoying or hurtful, but more often than not the intention comes from a good place. Just politely remind them that it’s your diabetes, and you know how to look after yourself.
Going to your healthcare professional can make you nervous, especially if you're worried about bringing something up. But a good conversation with your healthcare team can be really helpful.
It’s important to know that emotional and psychological support is something you're entitled to when you have diabetes. This means you have this right to ask for this kind of support in your annual diabetes checks, if you need it. And it’s free.
Speak to your healthcare professional about the services available in your area. You might be able to be referred to a counsellor through your local health authority or your council, or you can choose to go private.
We've got more advice on how to get the most out of your healthcare professional appointments.
Speak to our helpline
We’re here for you. Our helpline is a dedicated diabetes service for everyone with diabetes, their family or friends, and people who are worried they might be at risk.
It’s run by our highly trained advisors with counselling skills, and open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm. We can give you advice and support about diabetes – whether you need information about the condition, or just want to talk things through and explore what you’re worried about.
"I never thought I'd be someone that would ring that team up. But I needed to, and they were there. They immediately understood."
Mim called our helpline when she needed advice
It can be difficult to be open and honest about your diabetes with your employer.
It’s natural to worry that people at work will treat you differently if they know about your diabetes. But a simple explanation of how it affects you on a daily basis is a good way to educate people and create better understanding between you and your colleagues. Your boss and team members will be much clearer on why it’s important for you to have breaks and take time off for health appointments. Here are some tips to help guide your conversation at work.
It’s your conversation
Don’t be afraid to be upfront about your diabetes, but equally don’t feel under pressure to tell your colleagues everything. If you’d rather just tell them the basics about your diabetes, then that is up to you. Don’t feel pressured into opening up.
Do it on your terms
Choose the space and time where you feel most comfortable. That could be in a meeting room first thing on a Monday morning or over a drink after work on a Friday. Wherever suits you best.
Point colleagues towards us
Diabetes is a very complicated condition, and explaining it in a short meeting with a colleague or employer can be difficult. You could take some leaflets with you, or suggest they look at our website to get to grips with the basics of diabetes.
Know your rights at work
Unfortunately discrimination against people with diabetes at work can happen. This can be very unpleasant and may affect your emotional wellbeing. If you think you’re being discriminated at work because you have diabetes, talk to your manager and have a look at our guide to work and diabetes.
Peer support can be incredibly helpful. Dealing with diabetes can be daunting, whether you’re newly diagnosed, an old hand, or even if it's someone you know who has the condition. You may be looking for support, tips or just want to share your experiences with other people.
“I have a group of diabetic friends on a WhatsApp group and they gives me everyday advice on how to deal with the situations diabetes throws up.”
Laura, who has type 1 diabetes
Find a local support group
Our local support groups give people living with diabetes a chance to meet and share experiences with others. They are run by volunteers and usually meet once a month, often with a speaker on a topic like diet or exercise. Find your local group.
“We all come up with practical suggestions and leave the group feeling much more positive.”
Dave, founder of one of our local support groups
Join our online forum
Our online forum is free and easy to use. You can visit our forum and see what people are talking about – without having to take part. Popular topics are talking about diabetes in a new relationship and the daily challenges of diabetes.
If you’re looking to chat to other people with diabetes, it’s a chance to exchange knowledge and experiences with other people with diabetes, family and carers at a time that suits you.
Follow us on social media
Our online communities allow you to talk to us and each other in an environment that is informative, supportive, engaging and – most importantly – safe.
I think seeing things about diabetes on things like Instagram and Facebook especially with Diabetes UK, it makes you feel like you’re part of a community and you know all those thoughts you’ve been having by yourself you see translated on social media and it’s slightly normalised and that’s great.
Jim, diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 3
If you can’t talk about diabetes yet
We know some people would rather read about or listen to others, rather than talk about their diabetes and how they feel. If talking doesn’t come easily to you, or you’re not ready to tell people about your condition, you may prefer to read other people’s stories of living with diabetes.
Our stories cover everything from being newly diagnosed and driving with diabetes, to pregnancy and making lifestyle changes. And that’s just a few of our stories written by people with diabetes sharing life-changing experiences, both big and small.
Learning Zone is our online learning platform for people living with diabetes. It’s easy to use and gives you personalised content based on who you are, what type of diabetes you have and what treatment you’re on. It’s all free so get involved today.