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Are You Hiding Your Diabetes?

By

Cindy Kuzma

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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You can’t tell someone has diabetes at first glance. And some people with diabetes go to great lengths to make sure others don’t know about their condition. You might be tempted to hide your diabetes because:

  • You don’t want to deal with blame, embarrassment or misconceptions

  • You feel weak or inadequate to admit you have it

  • You think it’s your fault

  • You’d rather avoid questions about your health or about diabetes management

  • You don’t want to shock or worry friends and family

  • You fear losing your job, relationship or friendships

Harms of Denial

In some cases, you might not even be honest with yourself about your health. At first, denial can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed or depressed by bad news. But over time, ignoring or concealing your condition has consequences. For instance:

On top of tracking your diet and blood sugar, regular exercise is a key part of managing your diabetes. And while any exercise is better than none, certain activities have specific benefits for people with diabetes.

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

You might not check your blood glucose regularly. Studies show fear of stigma prevents people from monitoring their blood sugar. But checking this important number helps you manage your disease and prevents complications like heart attacks and stroke. You might tell yourself you know your levels “by feel.” But feelings aren’t a good substitute for meter readings.

You might not stick to your diabetes diet. Afraid others will find you out? You might feel tempted to eat what everyone else is eating without regard for your own meal plan. Sharing information about your diabetes diet, on the other hand, can help others support you in making healthy choices.

You might not get appropriate healthcare. In an emergency, the people around you need to know you have diabetes. That way, you can get the help you need quickly. For instance, hypoglycemia—or low blood sugar—can occur with some diabetes medications. Signs include confusion and difficulty speaking. Prompt treatment with a quick source of sugar can prevent hospitalization and other serious complications.

Start the Discussion

Telling others about your diabetes helps you avoid the fear and stress of an unexpected discovery and allows you to manage your condition in the open. Try these tactics to help you step into the light.

  • Get support. Join a group of others with diabetes. Or talk with your doctor or a counselor about your fears. He or she can help you discuss your condition with friends, family and colleagues in a way that helps everyone.

  • Ask for what you need. Sometimes, family and friends want to help you but don’t know how. Tell them what words and actions would be helpful—and which might make you angry or upset. 

  • Reframe your feelings. Instead of fearing others’ ignorance, view sharing your diabetes as a teaching moment. You can help friends, family and coworkers understand what it’s like to have diabetes. This way, everyone with the condition can live happier, healthier and easier lives.

  • Take control. Ultimately, you can’t change what others think or say about you. But you can do your best to manage your emotions and your health. The more actively you manage your diabetes, the better your chances of staying healthy—and happy—over the long haul.

Key Takeaways:

  • Many people are tempted to hide their diabetes because they fear blame and embarrassment or think it’s their fault.

  • Ignoring or concealing your condition has consequences. You might not check your blood glucose regularly or stick to your diet.

  • Talk with your doctor or a support group. They can help you discuss your condition with others in a way that helps everyone.
Was this helpful? (72)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 8, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Anderson-Lister G and Treharne GJ. ‘Healthy’ individuals’ perceptions of type 1 and type 2 diabetes cause and management: a ‘think-aloud,’ mixed-methods study using video-based vignettes. Journal of Health Psychology. 2013 Jul 1, online ahead of print.;
  2. Browne JL et al. ‘I call it the blame and shame disease’: a qualitative study about perceptions of social stigma surrounding type 2 diabetes. BMJ Open. 2013 Nov 18;3(11):e003384.;
  3. Earnshaw VA and Quinn DM. The impact of stigma in healthcare on people living with chronic illnesses. Journal of Health Psychology. 2012 Mar;17(2):157-68.;
  4. Hasliza AH, et al. Factors influencing insulin acceptance among type 2 diabetes mellitus patients in a primary care clinic: a qualitative exploration. BMC Family Practice. 2013 Oct 29;14:164.;
  5. Ong WM, Chua SS, Ng CJ. Barriers and facilitators to self-monitoring of blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes using insulin: a qualitative study. Patient Preference and Adherence. 2014 Feb 15;8:237-46.;
  6. Schabert J, Browne JL, Mosely K, Speight J. Social stigma in diabetes :a framework to understand a growing problem for an increasing epidemic. Patient. 2013;6(1):1-10.;
  7. Hypoglycemia, National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/hypoglycemia/index.aspx);
  8. New beginnings: a discussion guide for living well with diabetes, National Diabetes Education Program, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/ndep/new-beginnings.htm);
  9. Feelings about having diabetes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/tcyd/feelings.htm);
  10. Anger, American Diabetes Association, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/anger.html);
  11. Denial, American Diabetes Association, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/denial.html);
  12. Stress, American Diabetes Association, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/stress.html);
  13. Getting support, American Diabetes Association, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/recently-diagnosed/where-do-i-begin/getting-support.htm...;
  14. How do you feel? American Diabetes Association, Accessed July 1, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/recently-diagnosed/where-do-i-begin/how-do-you-feel.htm...;

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