Understanding Diabetes Denial and Healthy Ways to Reach Acceptance and Cope

By Marie Feldman

Understanding Diabetes Denial and Healthy Ways to Reach Acceptance and Cope

Receiving a diagnosis of diabetes can be intense and come with a lot of different emotions such as anger, depression, confusion, anxiety and even acceptance. However, one of the most common initial reactions to being diagnosed with diabetes can be denial. Understanding the nature of diabetes denial and ways to cope with it can be very helpful towards making the first steps to acknowledging and successfully managing the condition to ensure longevity and good quality of life.

The Definition of Diabetes Denial and Its Undeniable Dangers

Diabetes denial means refusing to acknowledge or believe that the diagnosis of diabetes is real and that it is happening to you. It is actually a very common reaction, as denial can be our mind’s way of coping with tough news, like an automatic defense mechanism. Examples of diabetes denial thoughts can consist of:

  • thinking it is no big deal and there are more serious things that could happen
  • believing you are not in control of it, so why bother to try to manage it
  • considering it to be only borderline and just a “touch of diabetes” instead of a full fledge diagnosis
  • feeling stigmatized or embarrassed about the diagnosis of diabetes and therefore choosing not to acknowledge it

A short-term bout of disbelief is one thing, whereas prolonged diabetes denial can be damaging and downright dangerous. Unfortunately, choosing to ignore diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugars can lead to serious complications in the long term such as heart disease, eye problems, kidney damage, as well as nerve and circulatory problems. Immediate problems can happen to lose with already very high blood sugars at diagnosis, which can lead to dehydration and other health emergencies. Waiting too long to come to terms with diabetes can be a missed opportunity to successfully manage it, prevent complications and live a long healthy life.

Effective Ways to Reach Acceptance and Practice Healthy Coping

Coming to terms with a diabetes diagnosis can feel like a long difficult road but it is important to realize that you do not have go it alone and there are helpful steps you can take to deal with denial and reach acceptance. Here are some realistic ways for healthy coping with the diagnosis of diabetes:

  • Enlist the help of a mental health professional. Some people need a therapist or counselor to successfully deal with a diagnosis of diabetes and to begin the path self-management. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider for a referral if this is what you feel you might need to get past your denial. It can also be helpful to learn healthy ways to express your emotions and develop some useful stress management techniques.
  • Make an appointment with a certified diabetes care and education specialist to learn more about diabetes and how to manage it. Understanding more about the condition and creating an individualized care plan can help you feel more empowered to face your diagnosis and take realistic steps to begin managing it.
  • Consider joining a diabetes support group. It can help you feel less alone, and for those who are newly diagnosed, it can be encouraging to meet experienced patients who can share tips.
  • Reach out for support from family and friends. In addition to having a good healthcare team, it is important to have emotional support from those that are close to you. Having family and/or friends attend medical appointments to be with you during your journey and as you are learning and processing things can be helpful and comforting.
  • Learn more about diabetes. Ask your healthcare provider for additional and credible resources such as books, podcasts and websites to help you gain more knowledge and perspective as you begin to come to terms with the diagnosis and begin to manage it.
  • Be kind to yourself and take it one step at a time. Acknowledging your diagnosis is a powerful first step but it can feel overwhelming as to what to do next. Use your resources (as listed in the suggestions above) and work with your healthcare team to set small realistic goals as your first steps in your journey to successful diabetes self-management.

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Orignially published on March 24, 2021, updated on March 24, 2021

Topic: Diabetes Management

Marie Feldman

About Marie Feldman

Marie Feldman, RD, CDCES, CHC is a health coach and senior team lead with Cecelia Health. Marie enjoys working with clients to empower them to meet their health and diabetes management goals. She also helps mentor coaches and is part of the social media team. Additionally, Marie is a fitness enthusiast who loves developing healthy recipes and cooking. She has done a lot of writing and public speaking work, namely writing and research support for dietary cookbooks and newsletters and delivering nutrition lectures to various populations in the community.