- Many people with type 2 diabetes feel guilt and distress about their condition.
- Feeling guilty can be a barrier to managing diabetes.
- Practicing affirmations for diabetes and mindfulness are some of the ways to cope with guilt.
Type 2 diabetes is a very common disease in the United States. It impacts
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has sparked public health initiatives aimed at reducing cases and helping people with the disease manage their condition through diet and lifestyle changes.
While those campaigns are intended to be helpful, they can sometimes make people with type 2 diabetes feel guilty.
Guilt can come from feeling like you did something to cause the disease or that you’re not doing enough to manage it. That, in turn, can affect your mental health and make it more difficult to take care of yourself, so it’s important to find ways to cope.
Here’s what to know about guilt and type 2 diabetes, along with ways to let go of that feeling.
Type 2 diabetes doesn’t just affect your physical health — it can also affect your emotional well-being.
A 2017 review of 55 studies found that 36 percent of people with type 2 diabetes experience distress related to their condition. Diabetes distress often includes feelings of guilt and shame.
That research echoed the findings of a
There are a couple of possible reasons why someone with type 2 diabetes might feel guilty about their condition.
Part of it might be from the stigma of the disease.
Research from 2017 on more than 12,000 people with the condition showed that 52 percent of people with type 2 diabetes felt that the disease came with stigma.
Some participants felt that others blamed them for causing the condition from eating too much, having a poor diet, not exercising enough, being overweight or having obesity.
Feeling like you’re not doing enough to manage type 2 diabetes can also cause guilt.
You might feel it when your doctor asks about how your diabetes management is going, if your hemoglobin A1C is too high, or if the number on the scale isn’t where you hoped it’d be if you’re trying to lose weight.
Understanding the root of your guilt can help you take measures to soothe those feelings.
The emotional impact of diabetes can also affect your health.
A 2019 review called diabetes distress, which includes feelings of guilt, “one of the most common and important psychosocial barriers to effective diabetes care.”
- lower quality of life
- higher risk of diabetes complications
- difficulty following treatment plans
- poor glycemic management
- poor self-care
According to a
Participants with both diabetes and depression were:
- more likely to smoke
- less likely to exercise
- less likely to get an annual dilated eye exam
When left unmanaged, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health complications and even death.
Finding ways to help reduce feelings of guilt can make it easier to protect your health from long-term consequences of this disease.
Feelings of guilt are common among people with type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with that emotion — or let it go altogether.
1. Understand the facts about diabetes
A lot of the stigmas that can cause guilt come from a misunderstanding of diabetes. Learning how the disease works and can affect you over time can help give you a deeper understanding about the realities of living with the condition.
It’s important to note that type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, meaning that it can get worse with time.
That means the things you’re doing right now to manage the condition may not work as well down the road, and you may need to make changes to your diabetes management plan.
For example, you may need to start using insulin at some point. This is a normal progression and not a sign that you did something you should feel guilty about. The ultimate goal is to get your blood sugar levels as close to a normal range as possible, and adjusting your treatment plan is part of that.
Likewise, learning the facts about what causes diabetes can help reduce self-blame and guilt.
Type 2 diabetes can be caused by a range of things that aren’t necessarily in your control, such as genes and biological factors (like insulin production and patterns of body fat deposition).
Keeping the truth in mind can be one step toward letting go of guilt.
2. Set realistic goals
Whether you’re trying to reach a healthy weight, exercise more, quit smoking, or adjust your diet, making lifestyle changes can help you manage your diabetes.
But if you don’t get the results you’re hoping for, you could end up with feelings of guilt and failure. Keeping your goals realistic helps set you up for long-term success.
Let’s take exercise as an example.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends exercising at least a half hour per day for 5 days each week. That level of physical activity can be difficult if you’re just starting out and leave you feeling guilty if you can’t meet that goal.
Instead, set a smaller, more achievable goal. That might mean trying to get outside for a 10-minute walk most days for the next month.
As you hit your goals, gradually challenge yourself to increase your physical activity. Remind yourself of the effort you’re putting in along the way to combat feelings of guilt.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness practices allow you to explore your thoughts and feelings without judgement.
Finding ways to stay in the present can help break the shame cycle that often accompanies guilt. That might mean simply focusing on your breath for a few minutes and noticing the thoughts that come into your mind.
You might also consider trying guided meditation that focuses on self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff, co-founder of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, offers a series of free guided meditations online that can help you get started.
4. Try affirmations for diabetes
Affirmations are positive statements that you say to yourself daily. Positive self-talk can reduce negative thinking and focus your brain on something helpful, ultimately helping to relieve guilt.
As you work to find an affirmation that feels supportive, explore statements that are personally meaningful to you or help put you in the mindset of how you’d like to feel.
Here are some examples of affirmations for diabetes to try:
- I trust my body.
- I’m the expert on my body.
- I’m doing my best.
- Taking care of myself is easy.
- I deserve to feel healthy.
- I enjoy exercising.
- I believe I can succeed.
These simple statements can shift your focus away from feelings of guilt or inadequacy toward achieving your goals.
5. Work with a therapist
A therapist or mental health professional can be a source of support in your journey to let go of diabetes guilt. They can help you develop strategies to challenge your thoughts and feelings around guilt.
Living with a chronic disease like diabetes can create stress that increases guilt and other negative emotions. Taking care of your mental health is an important part of taking care of yourself.
Many people with type 2 diabetes feel guilt about their condition. You might feel like you did something to cause your diabetes or that you’re not doing enough to keep it well managed.
Guilt can become a barrier to diabetes management, so it’s important to find ways to cope.
Understanding the facts of the disease, practicing mindfulness, and reciting affirmations for diabetes are some of the ways to start letting go of guilt.
Working with a mental health professional can also help you develop individualized tools for managing guilt and stress.