6 Tips to Cope with Diabetes-Related Guilt

Feeling overwhelmed by guilt could affect your treatment outcomes.

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If you have type 2 diabetes, you might feel guilt or shame from time to time. Sadly, it is common, and it stems from stereotypes and misconceptions about diabetes. You may hear or see comments from others (even your doctors) that make you feel guilt. People may say that your lifestyle caused your condition, or imply that you would get better if you could just “fix” your habits.

It’s true that lifestyle plays a role in diabetes prevention and treatment. However, it’s not the only factor. Plus, lifestyle changes are very hard and there are financial and societal pressures that may get in the way.

What are risks of unmanaged guilt?

Feeling guilt is sometimes the result of obsessing over what you “should” have done in the past. The problem with this is that you can’t change the past. You can only focus on what your next steps are going to be. If you have guilt and it gets out of control, it may start to affect your mental health and diabetes treatment outcomes.

The risks of not dealing with your guilt from type 2 diabetes include:

  • Depression or other mental illnesses
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Diabetes burnout, which may include a lack of motivation to stick to treatment
  • Worse overall health

What are tips to cope with guilt from diabetes?

If guilt from diabetes is overwhelming you, there are ways you can cope with those feelings. Good habits may help prevent or reduce feelings of guilt, and these include:

  1. Understand the facts: Learning more about diabetes may prevent you from feeling guilty about things that simply aren’t your fault. It can also empower you to stick to the habits that help.
  2. Know what you can’t control: For example, if you get a cold or flu, you might notice your blood sugar is harder to control. This is natural and it’s not a reflection of your treatment efforts.
  3. Set realistic goals: It takes time to find the perfect diabetes treatment plan. It also takes time to lose weight, find a good exercise regimen, and find a nutrition plan you can stick with.
  4. Be kind to yourself: You might feel guilt about the habits that may have contributed to your diabetes, but negative self-talk may make it worse. Be forgiving and accepting so you can focus on what positive changes you can make going forward.
  5. Ask for support: Making lifestyle changes and sticking to a treatment plan are both difficult. Ask loved ones for help sticking to habits, or for emotional support.
  6. Get professional help: If your guilt is affecting your blood sugar control or quality of life, talk to your doctor or a therapist. They can reassure you about what the treatment journey is like, or help you process the feelings you’re having.

The most important thing is to remember that you don’t have to go through the emotional burden of diabetes alone. Reach out to loved ones, doctors, or mental health professionals if you are struggling to cope.