T2D Lifestyle, a national survey by Health Union of more than 400 individuals living with type 2 diabetes (T2D), reveals that patients not only struggle with commonly understood complications, but also numerous lesser known ones that people do not associate with diabetes. (A summary infographic about the survey is also available.) Managing diabetes on a daily basis can result in emotional stress. While T2D is a chronic health condition it can be controlled. However, control can be complicated by necessary lifestyle changes, often made difficult to maintain as related health conditions increase.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood (or high blood glucose). In 2010 the Centers for Disease Control estimated that diabetes affected 25.8 million people in the U.S. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common, accounting for more than ninety percent of all diabetes cases. In T2D the production and use of different hormones, predominately insulin, used to control glucose we get from food and convert to energy is affected. The loss of ability to use the produced insulin is called "insulin resistance." In addition to insulin resistance, the body also loses much of its natural ability to produce insulin. The cause of T2D is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
As a chronic condition, T2D is associated with a long list of complications that can affect health, as well as quality of life. Ninety-three percent of survey respondents said they are afraid of the long-term complications. Some of the issues are commonly known, such as cardiovascular disease and neuropathy. In addition, respondents reported experiencing lesser known complications, such as depression/loneliness (48%), sleep disorders (47%), stress (32%), and cognitive decline (25%).
In order to control symptoms and complications, most people make significant lifestyle changes when initially diagnosed with T2D. Managing T2D on a daily basis, compounded by fatigue and difficulty maintaining these changes over time can lead to emotional stress and diabetes burnout, particularly when diabetes health conditions increase. Diabetes burnout is a state in which people with T2D grow increasingly frustrated managing the day-to-day fo the disease. Burnout can vary from short periods of lapsed diabetes control to giving up on maintenance.
"I have been dealing with T2D for 11+ years now and I just recently realized that my focus has changed, a lot," says Type2Diabetes.com patient advocate Kate Cornell. "In the beginning I would focus intently and overreact to fluctuations in my blood sugar. I was nearly always depressed that I couldn't 'just eat.' I didn't want to change. However, I gradually made changes to my food plan over time and now it's my new normal. I like the new normal! That's not to say that I don't miss certain foods or indulge now and then, but my diabetes life is easier now. It didn't change overnight but, with dedication I have been able to adjust. My advice would be that it's never "easy" but it does get easier, so don't despair."
Even though T2D is a chronic health condition, it can be controlled. In addition to taking medications, many respondents take actions to control complications. Seventy-eight percent make sure to get extra sleep or rest to control stress. Some use lists (77%) or do brain exercises (60%) to reduce cognitive decline. Many make sure to keep hydrated (79%) or go to sleep early (54%) to combat fatigue.
"The fact that some individuals get diabetes burnout illustrates the need for a site like Type2Diabetes.com," says Tim Armand, President and co-founder of Health Union. "Diabetes is a controllable condition and a place to find information and exchange ideas is invaluable. In addition, receiving support from other members of a sharing community helps with the emotional stress and ongoing management of the condition."