How you feel about your diabetes is just as important as what you do about your diabetes.
That’s according to Prof Lawrence Fisher, from the University of California, who visited Diabetes Australia – Vic last week.
The clinical psychologist from the university’s Department of Family and Community Medicine spoke about his research into the impact of diabetes distress at a breakfast seminar at the Royal Melbourne Hospital last Tuesday.
He presented the findings of the REDEEM trial, which looked at the impact of diabetes-related distress on HbA1c levels.
For the first time, Prof Fisher and his fellow researchers have shown that reducing distress can have a positive effect on HbA1c levels.
“We’ve always known that high levels of stress can have physiological outcomes – the body can only take so much stress, but it can be hard to measure the direct links and hard to show these physiological changes,” he says.
“Diabetes distress is the often hidden side of diabetes, but it’s almost expected that everyone with diabetes will experience distress at some point.”
Prof Fisher says there is huge need for more research and programs that focus on the mental and emotional wellbeing of people with diabetes.
For instance, he says the stress diabetes puts on relationships is one area that needs more attention.
“In the UK, here in Australia, and in the States, everyone acknowledges the importance of partners for people with diabetes, yet our programs do not target partners,” he says.
“The challenges that diabetes pose to the adult romantic relationships are dramatic, and different types of diabetes pose different types of challenges. It’s very easy for partners to become the ‘diabetes police’. It makes sense that if you can help partners by covering some important topics with them and make them equally knowledgeable, then you would assume it would help.”
During his visit to Australia Prof Fisher spoke to staff from DA–Vic’s Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes about the findings of their Diabetes MILES – Australia study and other research projects.
He also spoke at the Australian Diabetes Society and the Australian Diabetes Educators Association Annual Scientific Meeting on the Gold Coast in late August.
He expressed concern about the increasing use of technology, particularly iPhone apps, in diabetes management and care.
He warned that while iPhone apps can be great tools for people with diabetes, they should not be used in isolation. Face-to-face care and support from your health professional team cannot be replaced with technology.
Finally, Prof Fisher says it is important for people living with diabetes to understand that they’re not alone.
“You’re not the only one feeling distressed. Most people feel very similarly, and it’s about time that something was done,” he says.
If you are feeling down because of your diabetes, or you have depression and have just been diagnosed with diabetes speak to your doctor or diabetes educator for more information and support. You don’t have to deal with this on your own.
Minding Diabetes is a website that has been designed to help you to identify any problem areas you may have with the emotional aspects of diabetes, and to get help and information.