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NATIONAL DIABETES WEEK JULY 11-17

Living with diabetes can be tiring and worrying. Diabetes means having to look after yourself every single day. There is no chance for a break. This constant pressure takes its toll, and many people experience feelings of depression and anxiety at times. According to a recent survey of over 1,300 people by Diabetes Australia – almost half of all people with diabetes have experienced mental health challenges in the last 12 months, and 37% feel burned out by the relentless nature of their diabetes. The national survey found also found:

  • Younger people with diabetes under the age of 40 are much more likely to have mental health challenges. There are over 124,000 people with diabetes under the age of 40.
  • More than one in three people with diabetes (37%) say they feel burned out by the constant effort required to manage diabetes.
  • More than one in four people (26%) said other people’s attitudes and stereotypes about diabetes negatively impacted their mental health.
  • While just over 40% of people with diabetes have spoken to a health professional about their mental health – more than 80% said they had not been offered professional psychological support, and over 25% were not able to access mental health support then they needed it.

About diabetes and mental health
Feeling down or worried about your diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental health condition. But, if you do, you are not alone, and help is available. Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health conditions that people in Australia experience. Whether they have diabetes or not. Having depression or anxiety may not be related to your diabetes, but it can affect the way you feel about your diabetes. If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety, it is important to seek help from a qualified health professional.

Diabetes and depression
Depression is much more than sadness. It is a serious mental health condition. It affects how you feel about yourself and your life, it can prevent you from fully engaging in daily tasks, social activities, and relationships.

Symptoms of depression include:
- having little interest or pleasure in doing things
- feeling down
- having trouble falling or staying asleep – or sleeping too much
- feeling tired, or having little energy
- having a poor appetite – or over-eating
- feeling bad about yourself (that you are a failure, or that you have let yourself or your family down)
- having difficulty concentrating
- moving or speaking very slowly – or being fidgety or restless
- having thoughts that you would be better off dead.
If you have had any of these symptoms for at least two weeks, talk to your general practitioner (GP). They can make an assessment, offer treatment and/or refer you to a mental health professional.

Diabetes and anxiety
Anxiety is an excessive amount of fear in anticipation of something bad happening. Usually, this is a healthy response to a real threat. For example, certain situations, such as public speaking or having a ‘hypo’ (hypoglycaemia, or low blood glucose), can trigger anxious feelings.
Anxiety becomes a serious problem (a mental health condition, known as an ‘anxiety disorder’) when these feelings last for a long time (i.e., at least two weeks) and have a negative impact on your daily life.

Symptoms of anxiety include:
- feeling nervous or on edge
- being unable to stop worrying or control
- worrying thoughts
- worrying too much about things
- having trouble relaxing
- being so restless that it’s hard to sit still
- becoming easily annoyed or irritable
- feeling afraid that something awful might happen.

Anxiety also has physical symptoms, including:
- muscle tension
- a racing heart
- tightness in the chest
- an upset stomach.
If you have had any of these symptoms for at least two weeks, talk to your general practitioner (GP). They can make an assessment, offer treatment and/or refer you to a mental health professional.

Diabetes distress
Diabetes distress is the emotional burden of living with and managing diabetes. For example, you may feel:
- overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes
- concerned that you are ‘failing’ with your diabetes management
- worried about your risk of long-term complications
- frustrated that you can’t predict or ‘control’ diabetes from one day to the next
- guilty when your diabetes management gets ‘off track’.
Diabetes distress becomes a serious problem when these emotions start to affect daily life, including work, school, relationships and diabetes management.

Diabetes burnout
If severe diabetes distress is not managed, it can get worse over time. It may lead to ‘burnout’. This is when a person feels emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed by the demands of their diabetes. They try to cope with this by giving up on taking care of their diabetes.

The information here is intended as a general guide. Talk to your health professional about getting the support you need.

Source: National Diabetes Services Scheme; The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes; Diabetes Australia

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