Diabetes Distress 

Living with an unpredictable health condition can be extremely challenging, so it is understandable for people to experience some difficult thoughts and feelings about their diabetes.

Watch the following video to learn more about distress and burnout:

See how people living with diabetes say that the challenges of juggling their condition alongside the demands of day-to-day life can, at times, make them feel:  

– Overwhelmed with what needs to be learned/done to live well with diabetes
– Frustrated or angry at diabetes and what it asks of them
– Guilty about their numebrs, e.g. HbA1c
– Sadness comparing life now to before diabetes came along

These are some possible emotions linked to living with diabetes, and are examples of something called “diabetes distress”. They can last from a few seconds through to minutes, hours, or even days and weeks at a time. Diabetes distress is not another diagnosis, it is a rational and common emotional response to the demands of living with a long-term health condition.  

Evidence from research shows that 1 in 4 people with Type 1 diabetes have a high level of diabetes distress at any one time, and this is likely to be having a negative impact on how they manage their diabetes. 

Hover over the images below to see how Naomi and Ella cope with diabetes distress:


"I think if I get stressed about other areas of life then my diabetes definitely takes a hit. 
I will neglect my diabetes care a bit more when I'm stressed about other things in life.
But on the flip side, when there's great stuff going on in my life, then I'm quite motivated to take care of my diabetes, so it works both ways."


"I often say that having type one, if I've got a cup of ability to deal with stuff in life, just everything, diabetes kind of halfway fills up that cup anyway.
So, I have less ability to deal with other stuff that comes my way.
I think my response to diabetes day to day, it depends on what else is going on in my life."

The level of diabetes distress people experience can vary over time, and may be more severe during periods of stress. A helpful analogy is the “stress bucket”. Imagine a bucket you carry around that gradually fills up every time you experience something difficult or stressful. Everyday tasks like work, finances, and chores, can also add to your bucket. When you go through a particularly difficult time, it is normal for your bucket to feel quite full – it can even feel like the bucket is overflowing. During these periods, it can be harder to think about, and make time for diabetes self-care, which can increase the chance of experiencing diabetes distress. 

What sorts of thoughts and feelings do you experience about living with diabetes day to day?  

Go to ‘Diabetes distress and burnout’ to return to the main topic page, or choose another section.

6 thoughts on “Diabetes distress”

  1. I am currently having diabeties distress. i constantly feel depressed about it and have been avoiding checking and looking after myself properly. I also have a lot of other things going on with cause me stress. I have a appointment with a diabetic team this week and i am looking at slowly getting myself on track.

  2. liz19573mcclymont

    I have never actually heard of the term Diabetic Distress, but it does make sense as I have felt definite distress from time to time.

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