Diabetes stigma is real! Here is how you can overcome it

People with diabetes can often face stigma due to the misconception about the disease but it is important to not let such notions affect you.
diabetes and vaginal discharge
Diabetes can impact your vaginal discharge. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Rushin Mehta Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 03:33 pm IST
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People with diabetes constantly face the prejudices that arise out of misconceptions about the disease. Not many know of the types of diabetes and what causes the condition, judgmentally blaming diabetes patients for an unhealthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that many people living with diabetes feel stigmatized. Parents of children having diabetes often blame themselves for the child’s condition.

There are many ways in which one can deal with this stigma and even support people who are giving diabetes a tough fight.

Nobody chooses diabetes

“Drink this, and diabetes will be cured!” 

“If you could lose some fat, you might stop suffering from diabetes!”

These are some statements that people with diabetes often hear. One must understand that no one deliberately chooses diabetes. This disease can occur either when the body works against itself (auto-immune diabetes) or develops due to factors that one cannot control. For instance, some types of diabetes can be genetic. Hence, a person has no control over it. Furthermore, it is important to understand that diabetes is a one-way road. It can only be managed and cannot be reversed.

The fight goes on

Negative perceptions can make people with diabetes feel like they’re struggling against the world. This is usually triggered by the pessimistic and hurtful attitude of the people around them.  One of the less conversed issues is the blame most diabetics receive for their own condition. This can have a significant impact on a diabetic and they might neglect self-care. This can even hinder treatment.

Being your enemy

Since diabetes is irreversible, one might have a natural feeling of loss and fault. But, it is important to understand that self-blame is not going to benefit you in any way. When the blood sugar levels are very high or low, one might feel guilty about not taking care of it earlier but self-blame can do more harm than the rising sugar levels.

Letting diabetes overcome yourself 

Additional social stigma faced is the feeling of helplessness and being overpowered. People with diabetes often feel that it has a full charge on their heart and mind. 

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How to deal with the stigma of diabetes?

The stigma around diabetes is often due to ignorance and myths people have about this condition. With proper awareness, the shame associated with it can be removed.

Here are some other ways to deal with the stigma around diabetes:
1. Acknowledge and appreciate

Acknowledge and appreciate efforts put in by the patient to manage diabetes. In case you know somebody with diabetes, motivate and cheer him/her for his /her perseverance to take control of the condition.

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2. Check on them

Check on them and recognize the barriers faced by the individual to attain his/her target. The fight can be personal and can affect the person on a deeper level.

3. Do not only focus on numbers

Rather than judging the person from his/her A1c levels (the test that gives an idea about the average blood sugar over three months), encourage the individual’s actions to take charge of his/her health. Encouraging them will help them achieve their goal.

4. Change the vocabulary

The phrase ‘Think before you speak’ works here. Changing the tonality and language from negative to positive and giving empowering messages can do wonders.

While people are slowly becoming aware of diabetes, we still need to go a long way to shut down the social stigma around it totally. Let us promise to change our attitudes around us positively!

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About the Author

Dr. Rushin Mehta is a General Physician and Diabetologist in Thakurdwar, Mumbai and has an experience of 12 years in these fields. Dr. Rushin Mehta practices at The Clinic in Thakurdwar, Mumbai and St Elizabeth's Hospital in Malabar Hill, Mumbai. He completed MBBS from DY Patil University in 2008,C.Diabetology, from DY Patil University in 2012 and PG Dip Diab (UK) from DY Patil University in 2014. ...Read More

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