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Burmantofts Health Centre, Cromwell Mount Leeds, LS9 7TA
LMWS Blog: Diabetes and Mental Wellbeing
Diabetes can impact every aspect of daily life – including mental wellbeing. Katie Harper-Smith, Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at LMWS, explains how those living with this condition can better manage their mental health and improve their wellbeing long term.
What is diabetes?
‘Diabetes is a chronic health condition where the body doesn’t produce any (Type 1) or enough (Type 2) insulin, the hormone that enables the body to turn glucose into energy,’ Katie explains. ‘If left unmanaged, this causes high levels of glucose in the blood stream, which can lead to serious health problems.’
Managing diabetes impacts numerous aspects of daily life.
‘Those with diabetes need to carefully manage their blood glucose levels – this involves diet, lifestyle and also external factors like the weather and unforeseen stress,’ says Katie. ‘They must balance checking their blood glucose levels every day – sometimes several times – with injecting insulin or taking regular medication, as well as attending regular medical appointments. It takes a lot of effort, knowledge and discipline.’
How can this impact your mental wellbeing?
‘People with diabetes have to consider their condition at all times,’ Katie explains. ‘When planning a holiday, driving – even job hunting. Managing their condition day in, day out often feels overwhelming, frustrating, and exhausting.’
For some people, this can escalate into anxiety and depression. ‘Over time, this constant effort can lead to burn out, low mood and other serious mental health issues,’ says Katie.
Social situations can add to their anxiety too, Katie says. ‘People often need to explain their condition to other people and can feel reliant on their understanding. This can lead to avoidance of other people and situations.’
How can you improve your wellbeing?
On the positive side, there are plenty of ways people with diabetes can navigate these challenges and boost their mental wellbeing.
‘The first step is awareness and understanding. When you start to recognise what is contributing to your day-to-day anxiety, stress, and low mood, you can see what needs to be addressed,’ says Katie. ‘It’s important to take control of the things that are within your power, like managing your worries and perceptions, and making informed choices.’
LMWS offers a free, six-week online course which uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to explore mental wellbeing within the context of diabetes.
‘Our class supports you to identify unhelpful physical sensations, behaviours, and thoughts, and then learn CBT based techniques to address them,’ says Katie. ‘We look at unhelpful behaviours such as avoidance, worrying and dwelling; why we fall into these behaviours and what we can do to change and manage them. Participants learn techniques to challenge negative thoughts so they can learn to think in a more balanced and helpful way.’
What support is available?
Sign up to our next online Psychological Wellbeing and Diabetes course which runs on Thursday mornings. Alternatively, refer yourself to LMWS, speak to your GP, or access our Omnitherapy for immediate self-help resources.
Diabetes UK is the leading charity for people living with diabetes, and their Leeds-based support group can be contacted on 07840 686 618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.