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Facing the Stigma of Diabetes

By

Amy Rushlow

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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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Woman injecting insulin

Have you ever felt embarrassed or judged because you have diabetes? You’re not alone. Many people with diabetes report experiencing stigma at their workplaces, in their relationships, or from curious onlookers.

Here are some concerns commonly expressed by people who have diabetes. Remember, it’s important to not let what other people think of you affect how you manage your condition.

“I’m embarrassed to inject insulin in front of other people.”

If you inject insulin, you might worry about being treated unfairly, or rejected. You might think that people will mistake you for an illegal drug user. You could also feel guilty, or feel like a failure because you need to use insulin.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes may seem similar, but they’re actually very different diseases. Dr. Anthony Cardillo discusses the development and treatment of the two conditions.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 13, 2015

2017 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.

These feelings can have major consequences. Experts believe the stigma against insulin use is a major reason some people don’t want to use insulin to manage their diabetes. You might also attempt to hide your insulin use. Some people with diabetes report only injecting in public restrooms or at home, which can lead to delaying or skipping injections.

Never let your feelings get in the way of caring for yourself. Insulin use is more common than you might realize. More than 1 in 10 Americans, ages 20 and older, have diabetes, and many of them take insulin—typically by injection. It may help to join a support group of people who share your experiences.

“It’s difficult to choose healthy foods in social situations.”

You might feel embarrassed saying “no” to unhealthy foods at parties and events. Or you might not want to draw attention to yourself by choosing a healthy item. As a result, you might make poor food choices. Ask your friends and family for their support. Or try to shift the focus away from food to an activity. Play a board game, help with dishes, or hit the dance floor.

At other times, people might make comments about what you’re eating. For example, they might ask you why you ordered dessert when you can’t have sugar. Even when people want the best for you, they can be misinformed. Keep the conversation going in the right direction. Educate them about how you manage diabetes. Try something like, “I can’t eat too much sugar, but a little bit is all right.”

“People judge me based on my weight.”

About 8 in 10 people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. People with diabetes commonly report feeling unfairly judged or stereotyped, based on their weight. People who are obese report higher rates of workplace discrimination and bias, compared with people who are not obese.

Although you can’t always change others, support can make a world of difference. Lean on your family and friends. Avoid people who aren’t supportive or who make you feel bad about yourself.

Key Takeaways

  • Many people who have diabetes face stigmas or feel judged in social situations. You may feel embarrassed to inject insulin or have difficulties making healthy choices.

  • It’s important not to let what others think of you affect how you manage your condition.

  • Lean on family and friends, or consider joining a support group for encouragement.
Was this helpful? (77)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jan 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. Browne, J.L., 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;3(11):1-10. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/11/e003384.full.pdf+html 
  2. Alternative Devices for Taking Insulin. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/alternative-devices-taking-insuli...
  3. Diabetes A-Z. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/diabetes/Pages/default.aspx
  4. Healthy Eating During Winter Gatherings for People with Diabetes. National Diabetes Education Program. National Institutes of Health. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/_layouts/gov.nih.niddk/handlers/download.ashx?path=%2Fhealth-information%2Fhealth-communication-programs%2Fndep%2Fndep-health-topics%2Fhealthy-eating-winter%2FDocuments%2Fhealthy-eating-during-winter-gatherings-for-people-with-diabetes-508.doc
  5. Chronic Illness. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/pubs/videos/4310821.aspx
  6. Coping with a Diagnosis of Chronic Illness. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx
  7. Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/home/index.html
  8. National Diabetes Statistics Report 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/national-diabetes-report-web.pdf
  9. Take Charge of Your Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/library/takechargeofyourdiabetes.pdf


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