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Mental Health and Diabetes

12 July 2018 - Dr Vered Gordon

The emotional health of people living with diabetes has been receiving greater attention as we become increasingly aware of the often-unrecognised psychological distress experienced by the approximately 1.2 million people in Australia living with diabetes.

Although often asked about what they are eating and how much they weigh, people with diabetes are less regularly asked about how they are feeling and how they are managing with both the demands and the stigma of living with diabetes.

Diabetes Distress

Diabetes distress is the term used to describe the psychological distress that results directly from the impact of diabetes on a person’s life. Around a quarter of people with Type 1 diabetes and around 1 in 6 of people with Type 2 diabetes report experiencing significant diabetes distress. Importantly, diabetes distress has been linked to a raft of less favourable health outcomes.

Screening

Screening questionnaires are available to help identify people experiencing diabetes distress. These include the PAID (Problem Areas in Diabetes) questionnaire, which also has a shortened version  (PAID- 5) and the DSS (Diabetes Distress Scale) which can also be shortened to a 2 question screening tool. Guidelines recommend asking people living with diabetes about their emotional health at least annually.

Online help for diabetes distress

In acknowledgement of the large number of people affected, the team at My Compass (www.mycompass.org.au) has developed a module specifically to address the emotional well-being of people living with diabetes. The module is based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Interestingly, it is entitled ‘Doing What Really Counts’, presenting a values-based approach to help people with diabetes integrate managing their health within the broader context of their life, placing emphasis on what really matters in order to live in a fulfilling and meaningful way.

There is also a very practical program from Queensland University of Technology in their onTrack suite of programs that is designed to help people with Type 2 diabetes learn to manage their mental health in the context of their diabetes. https://www.ontrack.org.au/web/ontrack/programs/diabetes

Some Easy to read information about diabetes and mental health:

On world Diabetes Day Nov 14th 2017 Forbes magazine published a very readable article on the emotional impact of diabetes that may be of use to you or someone you know. https://www.forbes.com/sites/reenitadas/2017/11/14/diabetes-and-mental-health-anger-burnout-compulsive-eating-and-depression/#4413cc1d5a90

Dr Vered Gordon
Dr Vered Gordon

Dr Vered Gordon has been working in general practice in the Northern Beaches of Sydney for over 25 years. In recent years she has focused specifically on the areas of mental health and counselling and has undergone further training in psychological medicine. Vered is also a fellow of the Australian Society of Psychological Medicine and is currently General Practice Education Program Developer for Black Dog Institute.

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