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Psychological Aspects of Diabetes Essay Sample

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Psychological Aspects of Diabetes Essay Sample


Diabetes mellitus is one of the leading killer diseases in the world.  Diabetes has been associated with the changing lifestyle especially increased consumption of fast foods. The increased rate of obesity in the world has lead to increase in the number of people suffering from diabetes mellitus. Apart from affecting the physical fitness of the individual, diabetes mellitus also affects the psychological aspects especially for individuals whose lifestyles are negatively affected. The process of management of the diseases also affects individuals psychologically. Research has shown that psychological aspects of diabetes may be attributed to faster rate of health deterioration than the actual pathogenesis of the disease.  There is a lot of literature circulating all over that depicts the dangers that are associated with life style diseases than the practical ways of managing these conditions. Therefore, when one is diagnosed with the condition, they only see the dangers which are associated with the condition which may sometimes lead to serious psychological effects.

Understanding diabetes

Diabetes is a condition which decreases the ability of the body cells to take glucose from the blood. This results from the failure of the pancreas to produce insulin.  The pancreas may either be producing small amounts of the insulin or it may not be producing insulin at all (Szydlo et al., 2003). The condition may also result from the insensitivity of the body cell to insulin.

Failure of the body cells to take insulin from the blood leads to accumulation of glucose in the blood, a condition referred to as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.  High blood sugar comes with a number of complications in the body including high blood pressure, dizziness, insensitivity, and many others. However, this may also be in reverse where the level of glucose decreases in the body resulting from avoidance to take high carbohydrate foods.  This is referred to as low blood sugar or hypoglycemia and it has same negative effects like hyperglycemia (Szydlo et al., 2003).

There are two types of diabetes. The first one is type I diabetes which is mainly present in young individuals.  Type I diabetes is mainly insulin dependant and individuals are likely to live on insulin injection since their pancreas don’t produce insulin. The second type of diabetes is Type II diabetes or late onset diabetes mellitus (Hanas, 2004). This comprises more than 80% of all diabetes cases and affects the older generation. However, Type II diabetes has started to appear on children as well. Unlike Type I diabetes, this type of diabetes can be managed through drugs and diets but it comes with complications similar to those of type I diabetes.  It is estimated that by 2010, there will be more than 220 million people suffering from diabetes up from the current 150 million (Chandra, 2007).

Diabetes can lead to physical incapacitation of the individual patient.  For example it may lead to amputation of limbs which disable the individual. Apart from physical incapacitation, diabetes may also come with psychological effects like stress, depression, diabetes burnout and many others (Hanas, 2004).

Psychological aspects of the diabetes

There have been different social constructions regarding diabetes and other terminal illnesses such that when an individual is diagnosed with the condition, they only see the end of their life.  For most people who cannot access enough information regarding management of the condition, they are likely to get incorrect facts which affect them psychologically (Szydlo et al., 2003).

The relationship between diabetes and its psychological effects can be identified following different stages in the course of development of the disease.  According to Chardra (2007) this can be identified specifically in the following stages:

  • Initial response when diagnosed
  • Changes and restriction in life pattern
  • Burden associated with the chronic conditions
  • Understanding of complications and the related disability

For most people, diagnosis of diabetes is not voluntary which may have prepared the individual psychologically (Szydlo et al., 2003).  In many cases, diabetes is diagnosed as secondary to another illness which means most individuals are not prepared about their having the condition.  The initial diagnoses for most people comes with initial shock, denials, angers, and many queries regarding “”why me?” and others.  This means that right from the start, the individual find it difficult to accept that they have the condition.

The current information in the society regards diabetes as one of the most dangerous terminal illness which is claiming millions of lives. For most individual who don’t have facts regarding the disease, their first reaction is that they are now a part of the “bandwagon” and they only see the end of their life (Chandra, 2007). For some individuals, it may be a relief that the symptoms do not amount to another serious illness.  However, others react in different ways like becoming anxious on the future complications, blames themselves for the causes like increased weight or lifestyle, get frustrated for loss of health, and other reactions.

However, research has shown that the initial shock from diagnose can be averted if the individual is given full explanations on the disease, the nature of onset, associated complications, and management (Hanas, 2004). Although it may take more than a year for the psychological equilibrium to be established again, the first information that individual gets regarding the condition is quite important in determining the psychological effects of the disease.

Management of diabetes comes with various restrictions on the daily life of the person. In many instances, individuals will be restricted from visiting their favorite fast food joints, restriction in intake of alcohol, change in dieting pattern, daily administration of medication, change in physical activities, and many others (Chandra, 2007).  This may be more complicated for individuals diagnosed with Type I diabetes since they have to rely on insulin injection.   The change in daily lifestyle pattern comes with stress, despair, and a felling of worthlessness.

The risk in development of other related conditions like high blood pressure, regimentation of the daily lifestyle, the fear of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, dependency on drugs and insulin injection, and other related complications brings about anxiety in life. For those who find it difficult to balance hyper and hypoglycemia they may find themselves moving in and out of hospital may lead to development of affective and anxiety disorders. For example research has shown that more than 30% of diabetic individuals suffer from depression which is usually accompanied by phobic anxiety or cognitive functioning (Chandra, 2007).  In most studies, depression and anxiety have been reported twice in a diabetic population compared to a normal population.

The relationship between diabetes and stress can be explained in two folds. First diabetes leads to release of stress hormones associated with hyperglycemia. Second, stress interferes with self care activities like daily medication, adherence to exercise and diet, and others which lead to progression of the disease (Chandra, 2007).  Another diabetes complication is diabetes burnout which happens when the individual is overburden by the daily management routines associated with the disease and other complications. Diabetes burnout result to feeling of loneliness, angers and frustration, feeling that life is controlled by diabetes, and many others.

Management of the psychological effects of diabetes is very important for individual with diabetes. It is important for healthcare workers to understand the symptoms associated with psychological effects of diabetes to assist diabetes patients in the management (Hanas, 2004). Research has found out that group networking that facilitates sharing between diabetes patients is important in reducing the psychological aspects of the condition.


Diabetes mellitus is leading killer diseases in the world with an estimated 150 million people suffering from the condition. There is type I commonly among youths and type II diabetes commonly in later adult life.  Diabetes is associated with a number of physical and psychological problems. Psychological aspects of diabetes are evident in every stage in the manifestation of the disease but mainly involve stress, diabetes burn out, despair, anxiety and others. Health care workers should encourage diabetes patients to form group networks through which they can share their experience to reduce the toll of psychological effects.


Chandra, P. (2007). Psychological aspects of diabetes. International Journal  of Diabetes in Developing Countries, Vol. 17

Hanas, D. (2004). Type 2 diabetes in adult of all ages. London: Class Publishing Ltd

Szydlo, D., Wattum, P. & Woolston, J. (2003). Psychological aspects of diabetes melittus. Child Adolescence Psychiatric Clinic, Vol. 12(3): 439-458

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