Once diabetes is diagnosed, it is something that can be extremely difficult. It is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United Sates and can really be hard to accept for the individual and close family members; after all it is a lifetime commitment to change. People with diabetes often times feel socially alienated, unsupported, misunderstood, and insecure. Those feelings, mixed with medications can be very dangerous for the mental well being of yourself and your loved ones. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression and to know how to help. Knowing what depression in diabetes looks like and getting it treated as soon as possible can make the greatest difference in the life of your loved ones.
The sudden change in diet and exercise and /or medication can feel like a huge burden. People diagnosed with diabetes are given strict diets to follow, cutting out most sugar and carbohydrates, often times it is a big change to make in a short amount of time. Anyone following any kind of diet or lifestyle change, knows that it is difficult to break certain habits no matter how great they know it will be in the long haul. Also, unless that person has already been working out of a routinely basis, that is another aspect to change. Let’s face it, working out is necessary but not always fun! As a family member or close friend, encourage them by making the change with them. Cook together, work out together, and build on your relationship.
Social alienation is a big problem in people with diabetes. Either they alienate themselves because they feel the temptation or embarrassment isn’t something to risk or their friends unintentionally alienate because they do not understand much about the disease or feel that they do not want to say or do the wrong thing. The more informed you are as a friend or loved one or even as the person with diabetes, the easier it is to make the best calls socially. It also gets easier and more routine to live with diabetes once you have a diabetes management plan in place and you have a better grip on the diagnosis.
Explain to friends the concerns that you have if you have any! If your loved one isn’t open to talking about it, then get out there together and socialize. Take concerns as they come, and remember to take it slow. Socializing is important to feel that they are not alone and they have people that care about them. Be one of those people.
If a relative, spouse or close friend is diagnosed, be there for support. Learn what you can about diabetes and stand beside them any chance you get. Be there for them if they want to talk about it and also understand if they want to talk about anything but diabetes. As previously stated it can be consuming, so there will be those times that they want to have normal conversations and just laugh and love as they always have. Support is one of the most vital things that someone needs when battling any disease. It can be scary , it will be hard , and they need people in their corner.
Diabetes is a very misunderstood disease, as a loved one, do your best to understand. Understand the challenges that are ahead, understand that there is nothing they did to cause the diagnosis and understand that there will have to be changes. When someone with the disease feels understood, they will more likely discuss problems they are having and feel comfortable opening up to you. If depression is a concern, your loved one will either voice it if they recognize it themselves or you will be able to better recognize the symptoms shall they occur. If they are misunderstood and insecure, there is a much higher risk of depression. They need to know that you understand that it is a disease, you are there for support and you understand that it is not easy and it is not their fault.
Depression is often more difficult to recognize than we might think. Often times people suffering from depression try to mask their symptoms and act as though nothing is wrong. Especially when they are first diagnosed, loved ones might assume it is just part of the change, side effects of medications etc. and think they will get through it. As a loved one, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression and get them the help they need. If you notice these, please seek help: unexplained loss of interest in normal activities, if your loved one feels sad and more importantly hopeless. Other symptoms could be more physical like unexplained headaches, and back pain.
The best way to help a loved one who is depressed is to be on the same team, be sure they know that you support them. Encourage visiting a doctor that can help treat the depression. Remember to be calm, do your best to understand and be patient with treatment results.
Diabetes is not a diagnosis to be treated lightly and it can be scary. Let them know they are not alone through whatever the struggles may be.