Diabetes Denial and Anger Management Tips
Common Health Issues

Diabetes Denial and Anger Management Tips

Maybe you were sailing along, enjoying life. Then perhaps, things began to change and you didn’t feel quite right. If you have type 1 diabetes, your symptoms may have appeared quite suddenly. If you have type 2 diabetes, you may have not have noticed that you felt worse over a period of time. Finally, something happened that sent you to the doctor and you found out you had diabetes.

 

For some people, the diagnosis comes as a bit of relief. “No wonder I have been feeling so awful!” you might remember saying. For others, the diagnosis hits like a ton of bricks. “My life will never be the same again,” you might be thinking.

 

Being diagnosed with diabetes raises all sorts of conflicting emotions. It is often difficult to deal with these feelings as you try to absorb all the medical information being thrown at you. It’s difficult enough trying to stick to a diet and figure out how to give yourself insulin or work your blood glucose meter. It’s easy to put these feelings aside. Or maybe you have decided to put off dealing with diabetes entirely. Maybe if you don’t think about it, it will go away. 

 

Dealing with the reality of diabetes is not easy. And dealing with the conflicting emotions that come with it can be even harder. It doesn’t help when you have bad feelings that go unresolved. You may feel edgy, anxious, nervous, depressed, or angry. And when you have these feelings, they can make your physical symptoms of diabetes even worse.

 

The best way to cope with diabetes, whether you are newly diagnosed or have been living with it for years, is to deal with both the physical symptoms and the emotional feelings. When you recognize and confront your feelings, you can resolve them. Once you resolve how you are feeling, you can move on with your life and begin to integrate your diabetes management into your day-to-day living.

 

DIABETES DENIAL

When you were first diagnosed with diabetes, did you say to yourself, “Not me!” If so, you are not alone. Denial is a normal reaction when you are dealt troubling news. If your initial reaction to being diagnosed with diabetes is to deny that you have it, don’t worry too much. Many doctors recognize denial as a normal stage you must pass through in order to accept your condition.

Denial can serve as a valuable coping mechanism. By denying bad news, you can avoid slumping into depression that can sometimes incapacitate you. The normal course of denial is to gradually come out of it, accepting little bits of information at a pace that you can handle. If you can come to terms with different aspects of diabetes at your own speed, then you may be able to make adjustments bit by bit. This is a way of dealing with the news in stages and may help you to avoid feeling so overwhelmed that you can’t cope.

 

However, if you go on for months and months or sometimes even years denying that you have diabetes, you have a problem. Bad feelings don’t go away just because you deny them. They are like a black cloud looming overhead, creeping in and affecting your outlook in ways you may not realize. And the worst part is that by denying your condition, you put off taking care of yourself. Diabetes is a manageable disease, but only if you take charge and keep your blood glucose levels under control. If you deny you have it and don’t take care of yourself, you make the condition worse and you face the risk of debilitating complications later.

 

DENIAL SIGNS

Denial is normal during the first few weeks or even months following a diagnosis of diabetes. But if you were diagnosed with diabetes more than 6 months ago and you are still not changing your habits or giving it more than a fleeting thought, you may be in denial. Denial might be a problem for you if you still find yourself saying things like these:

 

  • One bite of cheesecake won’t hurt
  • This sore will heal by itself
  • I’ll call the doctor next week
  • I don’t have enough time to test my blood
  • I’m just taking pills so my diabetes isn’t serious
  • They say I have diabetes, but what do they know?
  • It’s not really diabetes, I just have to take off a few kilograms
  • I can’t do anything about it, since my insurance won’t cover it.

 

DENIAL RISKS

The greatest risk of denial is neglecting your health. Diabetes won’t go away if you don’t take care of it, but it will get better if you do. When you deny diabetes, you may end up ignoring your meal plan, neglecting to test your blood glucose levels, or forgetting to take your medication. All these actions can cause your blood glucose levels to rise too high or fall too low. This can trigger an emergency situation that could send you to the hospital. And chronically high blood glucose levels over time can worsen the complications of diabetes. These include eye disease, nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and infections. When you deny your diabetes, you may also neglect to do other things to ensure your health, such as taking care of your feet or quitting smoking.

 

What You Should Do

There is no single best way to break out of denial. Your spouse or health care professional can’t do it for you. It may help you to realize that what you are going through is normal. It may also help you to talk to other people with diabetes and discuss how they got through it. You can meet other people with diabetes by joining a diabetes support group or signing up for a diabetes education class, often available at your local hospital or community center. You may also discover that the internet provides a wealth of information about diabetes, and you may link up with other people with diabetes through chat rooms, news groups, and message boards.

Another way to break out of denial is to realize that you have two choices. Visualize yourself at a fork in the road. If you travel down one road, continuing to deny your diabetes, you will pass through periods of turmoil, marked by continued feelings of not feeling quite right, emergency episodes of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia that may send you to the hospital, and along the way, dealing with the chronic conditions of a host of diabetes complications, including infections, skin problems, impotence, nerve damage, heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, leg pain, and foot ulcers. 

 

This road continues to climb uphill the further along you go. Or you can look down the other road. The other road has a few obstacles: watching what you eat, exercising, not smoking, monitoring your blood glucose levels, and taking your medication. Along the way you meet other people, say hello, and chat about how you are doing. There are a few bumps in the beginning and you may have to even slow down a few times but as you go along, the path evens out and it is smooth going for a long, long way.

 

The point is, you have a choice. You can confront diabetes and take charge of your condition and get on the path to healthy living. Or you can continue to deny diabetes and face serious obstacles down the road. Taking the path to control may seem overwhelming. If this is your problem, slow down. Take a deep breath. And don’t bite off more than you chew, so to speak. 

 

Take it one step at a time. It may be too much to begin to change your eating patterns, start exercising, quit smoking, and start taking insulin all at once. Instead, realize that anything you do is better than nothing. Develop a long-term plan and a series of short-term plans. Tell yourself that this week, you are just going to focus on changing your eating. Or maybe you would rather start by getting used to monitoring your blood glucose levels. Think about getting an insulin pump or trying intensive therapy to give you the flexibility you need.

 

Where you should start depends on your exact condition. Talk to you doctor or diabetes educator. Tell her that you are overwhelmed, if that is the case, and you just want to start with one thing. Discuss what thing would be easiest for you to handle and the most beneficial to you. Then for a week or a few weeks, concentrate on just ding that one thing. Seek the help of your dietitian or exercise specialist or other health care professional, if necessary, to help you with your goal. Once you have mastered that, you may feel better able to handle something else, such as beginning a walking program. If you take diabetes one step at a time, you may be better able to handle it emotionally, and that will put you down the right path physically.

 

ANGER

Once you get over your feelings of denial, feelings of anger may begin to set in. Anger can also coexist alongside of feelings of denial or depression. Certain situations may trigger anger. And your anger may flare up in situations that on the surface have nothing to do with diabetes. Often people become angry about things they are really afraid of. Diabetes can be overwhelming and give rise to an array of fears. “How will I deal with hypoglycemia?” “Will I able to have children?” “What will the other kids say when I have to give myself an insulin shot?” “Will I end up having my foot amputated?” These are all common reactions to scary thoughts. Once you voice those thoughts you may become angry. “Why did this happen to me?” “Why do I deserve this?” “Why don’t you people just get out of my face?” Rest assured that these are normal feelings. It is normal to feel angry over something you feel you can’t control, like diabetes. The trick to overcome these feelings is to recognize them, realize they are normal, find ways to channel your energy, and ultimately realize that you can take charge of your diabetes.

 

ANGER SIGNS

The signs of anger are usually obvious. You flare up, turn red in the face, and clench your fists. Or you find yourself becoming agitated or easily annoyed. Something bothers you that shouldn’t provoke a reaction. Someone says something and it ruffles your feathers. 

You can usually tell when you are feeling angry. But just what triggers the anger is not always obvious. You may find yourself getting angry when someone asks you about your diabetes. Or you may feel angry when you have to skip an activity to give yourself an insulin shot or test your blood glucose. But you may also find yourself yelling at your kids for no apparent reason or becoming annoyed in traffic at a slight provocation. It may take some sorting out of your feelings to figure out why your behavior has changed. Diabetes can be a major factor in feelings of anger, especially if you are just coming to terms with the disorder.

 

What You Should Do

First, recognize that it is okay to feel angry. You have been dealt a bum deal and there is nothing wrong with feeling cheated. If you have been denying your feelings, it is perfectly normal to feel like lashing out. But uncontrolled anger on a regular basis can begin to eat away at you and alienate you from those who love you the most.

 

One way to begin to deal with your anger is to recognize it and take responsibility for it. Don’t blame it on someone else if you get in an argument. Accept that you had an angry outburst. It may have been legitimately provoked, but it nevertheless made you lose your temper. At the same time, accept that it is okay to feel angry.

 

Next, begin to keep track of your angry episodes. Keep an anger journal. Write down all the things that make you angry during the course of a day. Write down the events that led up to the anger. Also record your general mood before you became angry. Do this for several days, or several weeks, if necessary.

Now sit down and review your notes. What makes you angry? When did it happen? Who was there? Do you notice any patterns? Maybe you get edgy when you around other people in a social setting. Maybe your anger is triggered when you are asked about diabetes, or when people try to steer you away from the dessert table, or when you go out to eat with friends. Maybe you get angry when your mother or spouse asks you if you have tested your blood glucose level. By identifying those situations that trigger your anger, you can begin to come to terms with what makes you angry.

 

Once you have identified your anger triggers, think about what steps you can take to alleviate the situations that give rise to anger. You might even consider taking a day or even a week to let yourself be angry in the privacy of your own home, away from your family, before taking steps to control it. Get it out of your system. Then, begin a plan to control your anger.

 

You can start by learning to identify those situations you know will provoke anger. Become aware of the warning signs. You may start to tense up and feel your pulse quicken. Maybe you start talking louder or faster, or maybe you start to feel a little shaky. Whatever the sign, stop yourself. Close your eyes and count to 10. Talk slowly. Try to slow your breathing down. Get a drink of water. Sit down and lean back. Keep your hands at your side and zip your lips.

 

Controlling your anger doesn’t mean you have to sweep it under the rug. Instead, thinks about how your anger is helping you cope. Maybe if you don’t like talking about diabetes, anger is helping you get around that. Instead of getting angry, think of other ways that will help you deal with the situation. For example, if you get angry every time your husband asks if you have tested your blood glucose level, tell him how you feel. And make a vow to head him off at the pass if he is making a reasonable request. For example, assure him that you will test your blood glucose at a certain time if he will lay off the nagging.

 

If you find yourself flaring up when asked about your diabetes, explain to your friends that you don’t like to talk about it and ask them to refrain. At the same time, you might examine why you are uncomfortable. You might find that you continue to be angry because you haven’t fully accepted your condition. If this is the case, think about taking steps to help you accept it better. Think about joining a support group, educating yourself, and finding people to talk to.

 

Anger can work against you, but you can also think of anger as pent-up energy. Try to find ways to make your anger work for you. Your anger may be telling you that you need a change in your life. Perhaps you can channel your energy into becoming your own health advocate. Learn all you can about how to control your diabetes, develop a plan, and get to work at it.

 

Some people find that exercise is a good way to channel their anger. Going for a run or a brisk walk can do wonders when you are agitated. Many people find that this also helps them to settle down and think of a way to rechannel their energy. Exercise also has the added benefit of helping you control your blood glucose levels. Use your anger to educate yourself and put yourself in charge of your diabetes care. Anger can be a source of strength. It can give you the courage to speak up for yourself.

If you find it difficult to take steps to control your anger yourself, consider seeking help through counselling or expanding your support system. Often just talking about it can make you feel better.

 

Sources and References

The Diabetes Problem Solver—Quick Answers to Your Questions About Treatment and Self-Care by Nancy Touchette

Reactions to Diabetes and Their Relationship to Time Orientation by H Livneh and E Martz

Diabetes Distress or Major Depressive Disorder? A Practical Approach to Diagnosing and Treating Psychological Comorbidities of Diabetes by K Kreider 

author

Rich Health Editorial Team

Health Research

Rich Health Editorial Team is made up of medical practitioners and experienced writers who provide information for dealing with health issues in a simple and easy-to-understand manner