Chronic illnesses can impact one’s self-esteem, ability, and willingness to care for oneself properly. Diabetes can be challenging to manage, increases the risk of additional chronic ailments, and can negatively affect self-image. However, we don’t have to let chronic diseases define us. By aiming to control your illness to the best of your ability and not blaming yourself for your current condition, you can take proactive steps to manage your overall health and well-being. Don’t let diabetes be a stigma or define you. Own it, and ensure your mental and physical health are your primary focus.
When managing a chronic condition like diabetes mellitus, self-esteem, self-care, self-efficacy, and resilience can help improve outcomes.
People with a sense of self who rise above the stigma of a chronic disease, such as diabetes, are more likely to succeed in managing their condition and preventing the negative consequences that come as a result of poor disease control.
Ensuring adequate diabetic education helps improve self-management and may even help one stabilize blood values such as A1c.
Engaging with social networks (friends, family members, and support groups) helps improve self-esteem and self-worth, improving diabetic management.
How self-esteem impacts diabetes
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic disease that affects as 12% of the American population and as many as 422 million people globally. The condition can lead to numerous secondary complications, including kidney, heart, and eye problems.
Successful diabetic management is multifactorial. While it requires oversight and input from your healthcare providers, day-to-day management depends on each individual. Those with higher self-esteem have higher self-efficacy and often achieve higher disease control levels. Treatment compliance is lower in people with self-stigma and poor self-care behaviors.
Factors that improve diabetic care
The ability of a person with DM to provide sufficient self-management of the disease relies on following the recommended medical advice from healthcare professionals. It also involves a trusting relationship with your doctors, which instills confidence in the healthcare system.
It is important to find a doctor who supports your successes and failures. Physicians who belittle your efforts to control your disease, fail to educate you on proper management strategies, and fail to provide you with resources to help manage your disease aren’t supportive. Finding a new physician who fits your needs, personality, and care requirements may be in your best interest.
Trusted healthcare provider
The first step towards improved health is establishing a relationship with a physician you trust and who respects your input. As with many chronic diseases, most DM management occurs after you leave the doctor’s office.
Psychological and social factors
The support and care provided by one’s medical professionals is the first step towards improving diabetes outcomes. However, psychological and social factors also affect one’s ability to manage a chronic illness like DM. Factors that contribute to the successful control of DM in an individual include one’s:
- Self-care. You need to show yourself self-love and care for yourself. This includes appropriate exercise, a healthy diet, a stress-release program (e.g., mindfulness, meditation, yoga), or a bubble bath — whatever works for you.
- Self-efficacy. * See below
- Social support. Studies suggest that those who are supported by a spouse or significant other have improved diabetes outcomes when compared to those without this support. * See below
- Diabetes support groups. * See below
- Self-love. Try to avoid feeling guilty and beating yourself up. Don’t let the disease define you.
Degree of diabetes education. Obtain references, resources, websites, and other information from your healthcare provider, dietician, and other reputable sources to help inform you of steps you need to take to ensure a healthy life.
- Degree of stigma felt. Stigma levels vary within communities, age groups, ethnicities, social circles, and more.
- Resilience. Resilience is the ability of an individual to bounce back more rapidly from difficulties or setbacks. The more resilient one is, the higher the likelihood they will obtain disease control and prevent negative health outcomes.
- Mental health. Effective management of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns reduces the risk of disease management failures and improves overall quality of life.
What is self-efficacy?
Self-efficacy relates to one’s perception of one's ability to address changes in one’s life. Diabetic self-efficacy refers to a person with DM’s ability to manage the disease and handle the trials and tribulations that may accompany the illness.
DM management has its ups and downs. A well-regulated diabetic who develops a urinary tract infection could have blood sugars that spiral out of control. If they have high self-efficacy, they will be confident that their recognition of symptoms, early intervention from healthcare providers, and treatment will return them to their status quo.
Social networks and support from others, such as disease support groups, blogs, Facebook groups, and more, have been shown to aid in health outcomes for numerous chronic conditions in people of all ages and income levels. Recent evaluations of DM patients show that routine, consistent interactions with friends and family aid in disease management and control. Isolation weakens one’s resolve, motivation, self-efficacy, and self-esteem and lessens one’s ability to handle stress, and DM control often falters.
Support groups provide social interactions with people who understand how one with DM feels and can relate in ways family and friends may be unable to. Further, they are less likely to be judgmental and act as a means to boost confidence and, as a result, self-efficacy in disease management.
The stigma of chronic disease
People with chronic diseases suffer not just from the disease itself but, sadly, may also suffer from the stigma associated with a particular condition. Stigma can lessen compliance with medical recommendations and treatments, worsening the disease and risking health. Diabetes education must include not just those with the disease but all populations to minimize and hopefully eliminate stigma.
Get the facts about diabetes
Get the facts about DM. Learn what you can do to help improve your health, lessen your risks of disease complications, and improve weight management. Education can help those without disease take steps to reduce their risk of developing it, as well as educate them to prevent prejudice, judgment, and ill thoughts against those with the condition.
Further, self-blame, guilt, or shame about a chronic health condition serves no purpose other than to weaken one’s ability to care for oneself, lower one’s self-efficacy, and increase negative health outcomes. Having a positive outlook, friends and family support, and obtaining sufficient education about the disease to ensure healthy choices and proper medical management can all improve a diabetic’s disease management.
Positivity improves outcomes
Goals to improve overall diabetic health outcomes include managing your DM as directed by your physician. However, it is more than that. It requires care for your mental and physical health. This care includes steps towards healthy nutrition, sufficient weekly exercise, weight management strategies, and proper education on achieving goals, such as a target A1c level or reaching your ideal body weight.
Leaning on friends and family, not just to help manage the disease but to get you up and moving to keep you on a forward path, improves your ability to manage your chronic illness and lessens your chance of consequences. Ensuring self-confidence and self-efficacy, maintaining self-esteem, following doctor’s recommendations, and being proactive about your health can improve your quality of life and allow you to take control of your condition. Don’t let diabetes control you.
- Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome. The association between attitude, self-efficacy, and social support and adherence to diabetes self-care behavior.
- Psychology Research and Behavior Management. Self-efficacy-focused education in persons with diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. Weight stigma and diabetes stigma in U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes: Associations with diabetes self-care behaviors and perceptions of health care.
- PLOS ONE. The Contribution of Social Networks to the Health and Self-Management of Patients with Long-Term Conditions: A Longitudinal Study.
- CDC. Diabetes Stigma: Learn About It, Recognize It, Reduce It.