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Emotional wellbeing

Managing type 1 diabetes day in and day out can be tough. It’s a condition which needs care and attention 24/7 and it’s normal to feel stressed out or down about it at times. Read on for information and support about how to cope with type 1 and manage your emotional wellbeing.
Content last reviewed and updated: 08.12.2023

Two men hugging to support their emotional wellbeing

How does type 1 diabetes affect you emotionally?

Dealing with type 1 every day can have an emotional impact, whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been living with type 1 for some time. Constant blood glucose tests and targets can lead to stress, and the relentlessness of managing type 1 can get overwhelming. As anyone with type 1 knows, there are no days off.

Having type 1 can also directly affect your mood. If your blood glucose levels go too high (called a hyper) or too low (called a hypo) it can cause you to get angry, irritable or make you feel anxious.

The emotional impact of a new diagnosis

Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can feel scary and stressful, especially if you or your loved one was very unwell before being diagnosed. There is a lot of information to learn quickly, and you might feel vulnerable or anxious as you get to grips with how to manage type 1 diabetes or look after a child with type 1.

It’s natural to feel concerned or unsure about how it will affect your or your loved one’s life, whether it be concerns about school or university, work, friends, family, travel or whether people may treat you differently.

These thoughts are perfectly natural. It is normal for people to go through a grieving process following a big life change like a type 1 diagnosis. But you’re not alone. Getting information, support and speaking to others with type 1 can help you during this time.

Get help with the steep learning curve

There are many resources, helplines, support groups and a large online community that can help you to feel supported as you learn how to manage type 1. Our guides to a new diagnosis can help, and there are other useful links at the bottom of this page.

Get connected

Other people with type 1, or those who care for someone with type 1, will have been through the same thing you’re going through and many of them are happy to help people who are dealing with a new diagnosis.

Connecting with others can also help you see that you or your loved one can still live a normal, happy and fulfilling life with type 1.

Take a look at the useful links at the bottom of this page or follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to start getting connected.

Taking your time

Getting your head around having type 1 diabetes or caring for someone who does doesn’t happen on a schedule, and it doesn’t go in a straight line. Sometimes people feel that they are coping fine at first, but then start to feel distressed later on.

There is no right or wrong way to feel. Not everyone is the same, so listen to yourself and remember it’s fine to go at your own pace. There’s no time limit on when you might feel ‘ok’ again (and ‘ok’ might look different for different people) so take time to process things and take each new challenge one step at a time.

Acceptance

One major step of having type 1 is acceptance. Getting to a place where you don’t feel like you’re constantly battling with the fact you or your loved one have type 1 can really improve emotional wellbeing.

This can be more easily said than done, which is why it’s important to reach out for help if you need it, by contacting your Diabetes Healthcare Team or GP or using the resources or communities listed below.

Life with type 1

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long condition, and although we are working towards a cure there currently isn’t one.

How you feel about your type 1 may change throughout your life. There might be periods where you feel good about your type 1 and the effect it has on your life might feel minimal. At other times it might feel like more of a struggle. There’s no right or wrong way to feel about type 1, no matter how long you’ve lived with it.

We all change as we get older. Going through puberty, starting a new job, moving house, having children or going through menopause may impact your type 1 and how you feel about it.

If life events are having an impact on your type 1, talk to your Diabetes Healthcare Team.

What is type 1 diabetes depression?

Managing type 1 diabetes day in and day out can be stressful and feel relentless. For this reason, someone with type 1 is more than twice as likely to experience depression than those who don’t.

In the UK population as a whole, around one in four people experience mental health issues every year, regardless of whether they have type 1. If you are feeling low, you are certainly not alone.

Knowing the signs of depression

It’s helpful to know the signs of depression (and for people around you to know them too) so that you can get support when you need it.

You may be experiencing depression if you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Feeling sad, down or miserable most of the time
  • Losing interest or pleasure in most of your usual activities
  • Becoming withdrawn, not going out
  • Not doing things you used to enjoy
  • Thoughts about being a failure, being worthless, life is not worth living
  • Feeling overwhelmed, tearful, guilty or irritable
  • Having physical symptoms such as feeling tired all the time, having a churning gut, disturbed sleep and poor appetite.

What to do if you are experiencing depression

If you experience some or all of these symptoms, speak to your GP or Diabetes Healthcare Team so they can recommend the right treatment for you.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor, charities like Mind, Samaritans and Depression UK have lots of information on their websites and telephone numbers to speak to someone about your feelings.

As well as seeking professional help, you can find many online resources (check out our list below) and ways to connect with other people with type 1 online and in-person, who may have experienced how you’re feeling.

What is type 1 diabetes burnout?

The day-to-day effort of managing type 1 diabetes can become difficult and frustrating, especially when the results are not what you would like. Burnout out is when these feelings become overwhelming and you start to feel helpless or hopeless. It may cause you to stop looking after your type 1 diabetes and try to ignore it most of the time.

For example, you may stop checking your blood glucose levels, not take your insulin (or enough of it) or not think about what you’re eating or how much exercise you’re doing.

What to do if you think you have type 1 burnout

If you think you may be experiencing type 1 burnout, speak to your Diabetes Healthcare Team or GP. They may be able to support you with an in-clinic psychologist to help you manage mental health issues.

Speaking to friends, family and other people with type 1 may also help – many people will have felt like you do. You can connect with others online or at JDRF in-person events.

There are other organisations and online resources that can help. Take a look at our list below.

How do you cope with type 1 to avoid burnout or depression?

Although living with type 1 doesn’t have to stop you living a full life, it can sometimes be difficult. There will be good days, weeks or months, and bad days, weeks or months too. There may be times when you feel like really focusing on it, and times when it all seems too much.

If your blood glucose readings aren’t what you’d like them to be despite your best efforts, don’t be hard on yourself. Not everything is in your control – a summer heatwave or exam stress can affect your blood glucose levels without you being able to do much about it.

Your readings aren’t a measure of whether you’ve ‘succeeded’ or ‘failed’; look at it as information to help you learn about your type 1 and decide if you need to do something differently next time.

Take a look at our resources below to find more advice and support.

Type 1 and eating disorders

People with type 1 diabetes can be at extra risk of developing eating disorders. There are many factors to this, and they are different for different people, but it is often caused by having to focus on your body and food every day and your feelings about how you’re managing your type 1.

Our type 1 and eating disorders page has more information, stories from people with type 1 who have experienced disordered eating, and where to go to find help and support.

Where to get emotional support for type 1 diabetes

If you need support with the emotional side of managing type 1, speak to your Diabetes Healthcare Team, who may be able to connect with an in-clinic psychologist. You can also speak with your GP about mental health issues.

There are many other services that are available to help support you too.

Diabetes organisations:

Mental health organisations:

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