Diabetes burnout affects people managing diabetes and can impact their well-being. People with diabetes may experience diabetes distress and depression.

This article will discuss diabetes burnout, its symptoms, causes, and strategies to manage it. We will discuss the difference between burnout, distress, and depression, showing how each manifests and affects people with diabetes. By understanding the symptoms and triggers of burnout, patients, their support group, and their care team can better address and cope with the challenges of managing diabetes effectively.

Key Facts

  • Diabetes burnout affects well-being alongside distress and depression.
  • It is caused by exhaustion from managing diabetes, leading to neglect of self-care.
  • Triggers include stressors, treatment challenges, and fear of complications.
  • Symptoms include fatigue, neglecting tasks, emotional distress, and avoidance.
  • It differs from diabetes distress and depression, with burnout focusing on exhaustion related to management, while distress encompasses broader challenges, and depression involves feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Coping strategies include self-care, realistic goals, seeking support, and lifestyle adjustments.
  • Lifestyle changes like mindfulness, sleep, diet, exercise, and boundaries can help.

What is Diabetic Burnout?

Diabetes burnout is the emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from the challenges of living with and managing diabetes, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed and disillusioned. "People who experience diabetes burnout often feel like giving up. As a result, they may avoid diabetes self-management tasks," says Julia Blanchette, PhD, RN, BC-ADM, CDES , a lead nurse scientist and diabetes care and education specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

Having diabetes means having to manage it carefully and take a lot of medicine. So, it is common for people with diabetes to feel emotionally and mentally tired. Studies show that people may go through diabetes burnout in different ways, but it usually means feeling overwhelmed and unable to handle daily engagement with self-care. Consequently, those going through diabetes burnout may distance themselves from their diabetes care.

What are the causes and triggers of diabetes burnout?

Living with diabetes is a chronic condition that requires consistent management and attention. Managing diabetes is a relentless journey, and several factors can cause a patient to burn out. Understanding these causes and triggers is essential for effectively addressing and managing burnout. A 2021 study gives some factors that can trigger diabetes burnout:

Daily Management Tasks

Balancing blood sugar checks, medication adherence, and dietary restrictions can feel overwhelming. Managing diabetes involves several daily tasks like checking blood sugar levels at intervals, using your medications as prescribed by your doctors, following a specific diet, and regularly engaging in physical activity. Sticking to a somewhat rigid schedule can become overwhelming and tiresome, causing burnout.

Emotional and Psychological Stressors

Coping with stress, anxiety, and depression associated with diabetes management can take a toll on anyone. Coping with the stress of managing diabetes, worrying about potential complications, and dealing with anxiety or depressive symptoms can trigger burnout. Emotional challenges can make staying motivated and engaged in daily management tasks difficult.

Social and Lifestyle Challenges

Lack of support, unrealistic treatment goals, and difficulties with exercise can contribute to burnout. Unrealistic treatment goals or expectations, such as striving for perfect blood glucose levels, can be pretty frustrating. Consistently feeling unable to meet target A1C or other treatment objectives can lead to a sense of failure or inadequacy. Limited support from family, friends, or the healthcare team can make it harder to cope with the demands of diabetes management. Management tasks can impact productivity at work and can be not very pleasant. Incorporating exercise into daily routines or maintaining healthy living can also be challenging.

Treatment Challenges

Dealing with complications, finding the proper medication, sticking to a treatment plan, and navigating treatment costs can add to the burden. Finding an effective insurance plan with good coverage and access to healthcare resources may also not be straightforward. The financial burden of treatment costs can be exhausting. Experiencing and switching between hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia can cause stress and frustration that leads to being burned out.

Other Factors

Fear of hypoglycemia, experiencing stigma or discrimination because you have diabetes, and constant need for self-care can also trigger diabetes burnout.

Diabetes burnout can happen from a combination of factors and may vary from person to person.

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes burnout? 

The signs and symptoms of diabetes burnout may vary in different individuals, but common signs include:

  • Feeling tired all the time: Managing diabetes can be exhausting.
  • Neglecting diabetes self-care tasks: You might forget to check your blood sugar, take your medicine, follow a healthy diet, and engage in regular physical activity like you should.
  • Emotional distress: You might feel more easily annoyed, irritable, frustrated, or upset about dealing with diabetes stuff. You might experience more strong negative feelings.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or defeated by diabetes management: You might feel overwhelmed by the constant vigilance required to manage diabetes effectively, leading to a sense of hopelessness or defeat.
  • Avoiding diabetes-related tasks or appointments: You might avoid scheduling or going for regular check-ups with your doctor or attending diabetes education classes.
  • Changes in blood sugar levels: Your blood glucose levels might increase or lower than usual because of stress and burnout.
  • Feeling more stressed, anxious, or sad: You might feel more stressed out, worried, or sad because of everything you are dealing with.
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed: People who experience diabetes burnout feel too overwhelmed or exhausted to enjoy activities that were once fun and fulfilling.
  • Difficulty maintaining motivation or adherence to treatment plans: It might be more challenging to stay motivated and keep up with your diabetes care plan because you feel overwhelmed.

It is essential to talk to your diabetes care team if you feel any of these symptoms. They can provide support and tips for handling better.

How Diabetes Burnout Impacts Your Well-being

Diabetes burnout can affect how you feel and function in everyday life. Here's how it can impact you:

  • Physical Health: Forgetting to keep track of your blood sugar levels, skipping medications, or not eating well can make your blood glucose levels go haywire. This can lead to more health problems down the line.
  • Emotional Well-being: Managing diabetes can be stressful and overwhelming, and burnout can make these feelings even more vital. You might feel frustrated, hopeless, or tired of dealing with everything.
  • Mental Health: Diabetes burnout can also make it hard to think clearly. You might have trouble concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions. It can take a toll on the mental health.
  • Quality of Life: Burnout can suck the joy out of life. You might not feel like doing things you love anymore and find it harder to connect with others.

Recognizing burnout and reaching out for support can help you get back on track. Taking small steps to care for yourself and finding healthy ways to cope can make a big difference in how you feel and manage your diabetes.

Diabetes Distress Vs. Diabetes Burnout

Diabetes distress is when people living with diabetes feel a great deal of emotional stress, anxiety, or frustration because of managing diabetes. It also includes feeling overwhelmed by diabetes self-management tasks and worrying about complications. It can fluctuate over time and may peak during challenging periods and heightened general stress. If it is untreated, mild diabetes distress can become severe diabetes distress and depression.

This research shows that severe diabetes distress affects one in four people with type 1 diabetes, one in five people with insulin-treated type 2 diabetes, and one in six people with non-insulin-treated type 2 diabetes. Severe diabetes distress is linked to adverse medical and psychological effects, such as:

  • Not managing diabetes well (like not being active enough, eating less healthily, not taking medication as advised, and checking blood sugar less often).
  • Increased levels of HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar over time).
  • Having more severe low blood sugar episodes.
  • Decreased quality of life.

This 2020 study shows how some people living with diabetes distress and diabetes burnout are separate but are closely linked due to distress and depressive symptoms. Some people see burnout as similar to distress and depression, while others feel distress leads to burnout and depressive symptoms.

Feelings Associated with Diabetes Distress

People living with diabetes distress may feel a range of emotions that include:

  • Powerlessness: Feeling overwhelmed and powerless because of constant diabetes management needs.
  • Anger: People with diabetes can experience diabetes distress due to the impact of diabetes on their daily lives.
  • Frustration: Feeling frustrated with constant monitoring and unpredictability of blood glucose levels.
  • Anxiety: Persistent fear or worry about treatment plans and complications can contribute to feelings of anxiety.
  • Guilt or Shame: Feeling guilty or ashamed about perceived failures in diabetes management, like missing medication doses, blood sugar checks, or deviating from the diet, can weigh heavily on a patient.
  • Loss of Control: Feeling like diabetes controls one's life and choices can lead to a sense of helplessness or loss of control, adding to distress.
  • Isolation or Loneliness: People with diabetes may struggle to find understanding or support from others who do not share their experiences. Bearing this burden can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Similarities between Distress and Burnout

Many feelings associated with diabetes distress are similar to the feelings you experience with diabetes burnout. They both involve emotional responses to challenges faced when managing diabetes. These feelings are:

  • Powerlessness in diabetes management
  • Anger towards diabetes and required management tasks
  • Frustration
  • Being overwhelmed

Diabetes distress can result in diabetes burnout if it occurs over an extended period.

Differences between Distress and Burnout

There are similar feelings between diabetes distress and burnout, but there are also significant differences:

  • Scope: Diabetes distress may cover a broader range of emotional and psychological challenges associated with living with diabetes, while diabetes burnout refers explicitly to feelings of exhaustion and depletion related to diabetes management.
  • Duration: Diabetes burnout can happen over a more extended period and may require more intensive interventions to address; however, diabetes distress may fluctuate in intensity over time.
  • Intensity: Diabetes burnout tends to be more severe, exhausting, and impairing than diabetes distress; it often results in feelings of physical exhaustion and emotional stress that interfere with daily functioning.

Depression Vs. Diabetes Burnout

Depression is a mental health disorder that comes with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and losing interest in things they used to enjoy. It can make someone feel tired, have trouble sleeping, and struggle concentrating. It is like a dark cloud hanging over them, making everything seem harder. Depression can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life, and it often requires treatment such as therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Research shows that the rate of depression is more than three times higher in people with type 1 diabetes and nearly twice as high in people with type 2 diabetes. It also explains that women with diabetes and women without diabetes experience a higher prevalence of depression than men. Reviewed studies show a modest relationship between diabetes and depressive symptoms, but the exact elements of this relationship remain unclear.

Depressive symptoms indicate that it is a general emotional state. While diabetes burnout and diabetes distress primarily manifest in the context of living with diabetes, they may not manifest in other areas of the person's life.

Another difference is how they affect blood sugar levels. This research shows how high levels of diabetes distress can make it hard to manage diabetes, leading to higher A1C levels. Some studies suggest the same for diabetes burnout. But for depression, the link to A1C levels isn't clear. Some studies don't find a connection. This means depression might affect people with diabetes differently than diabetes burnout or diabetes distress.

Depression can mess up daily life in many ways. It can make sleeping, eating right, or even getting out of bed hard. People may feel tired, lose interest in things they used to enjoy, and have trouble focusing. They might also want to be alone more and forget to care for themselves. Some might even turn to drinking or drugs to feel better. Getting help is essential to start feeling better and getting back on track.

Strategies for Coping and Overcoming Diabetes Burnout 

Living with diabetes can sometimes feel overwhelming, and it's expected to experience burnout from time to time. When you're dealing with diabetes burnout, it can be hard to stay motivated and manage your condition effectively. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that people who experience diabetes burnout should;

  • Involve the health care team.
  • Lean on the diabetes community.
  • Remember that perfection is not possible.

However, other strategies can help you cope and overcome burnout. Here are some simple tips to help you manage diabetes burnout and feel more in control of your health:

  • Acknowledge your feelings: It's okay to feel overwhelmed or frustrated with managing diabetes. Recognize and accept your feelings.
  • Set achievable goals: Don't aim for perfection. Set small, realistic goals for managing your diabetes and celebrate your successes.
  • Take breaks and connect with others: Permit yourself to take breaks from diabetes tasks when needed. Do other things aside from those tasks; do not skip your tasks. Make sure you rest and recharge to avoid feeling burnt out. Do things you enjoy and spend time with loved ones to relax. Have a whole life that does not revolve around your condition.
  • Get support: Reach out to friends, family members, or support groups who understand what you're going through. Sharing your feelings with others who can understand can provide validation and encouragement. Several support groups offer supportive environments where you meet people with similar experiences. You can also consider therapy, which can provide strategies for managing stress and improving coping skills.
  • Talk to your healthcare team: Be honest with your doctor about your feelings. They can provide guidance and make adjustments to your treatment plan if necessary.
  • Focus on what you can control: Accept that managing diabetes has ups and downs. Concentrate on what you can control and let go of what you can't.
  • Learn more: Educate yourself about diabetes management and self-care. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to manage your diabetes effectively.

Adapting Your Lifestyle as a Strategy for Dealing with Burnout

One effective strategy for dealing with burnout is to adapt your lifestyle. This means changing your daily routines and habits to manage stress better and prioritize self-care. Healthy living can help reduce the effects of burnout. Here are some ways you can adapt your lifestyle to cope with burnout:

  • Prioritise Self-care: Make time for activities that help you relax and recharge, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies you enjoy.
  • Establish Boundaries: Learn to say no to commitments or responsibilities that add unnecessary stress to your life. Setting boundaries can help protect your time and energy.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Stay present in the moment and focus on one task at a time. Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or guided imagery, can help reduce stress and improve mental clarity.
  • Get Enough Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Prioritize sleep hygiene practices, such as creating a relaxing bedtime routine and avoiding screens before bed, to improve sleep quality.
  • Eat Healthily: Fuel your body with nutritious foods that support overall well-being and don't increase your blood sugar. Eating a balanced diet can help stabilize energy levels and improve mood.
  • Stay Active: Incorporate regular physical activity, such as walking, cycling, or yoga. Exercise releases endorphins, which can boost mood and reduce stress.

Remember, you're not alone in dealing with diabetes burnout. By implementing these simple strategies and seeking support when needed, you can overcome burnout and feel more in control of your diabetes management. Diabetes can be very unpredictable, and it makes managing it tricky. Break your treatment goals into small steps.

Conclusion

Diabetes burnout is a significant challenge for people with diabetes; it impacts their emotional well-being and overall quality of life. By recognizing the signs, understanding the triggers, and implementing effective coping strategies, individuals can better navigate the complexities of diabetes management. Individuals can overcome burnout and regain health control by prioritizing self-care, seeking support, and making lifestyle adjustments. With continued awareness and proactive management, patients can thrive in diabetes management and lead fulfilling lives.

Sources

At Diabetic Me, we are committed to delivering information that is precise, accurate, and pertinent. Our articles are supported by verified data from research papers, prestigious organizations, academic institutions, and medical associations to guarantee the integrity and relevance of the information we provide. You can learn more about our process and team on the about us page.

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  2. University Hospitals Julia Blanchette, RN, PhD
  3. National Library of Medicine Burnout Related to Diabetes Mellitus: A Critical Analysis
  4. Springer Link The Value of Measuring Diabetes Burnout
  5. Diabetes UK Diabetes Distress
  6. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice New insights into diabetes burnout and its distinction from diabetes distress and depressive symptoms: A qualitative study
  7. Science Direct Relation between diabetes related distress and glycemic control: The mediating effect of adherence to treatment
  8. Science Direct Epidemiology of depression and diabetes: A systematic review
  9. Science Direct Development and validation of a scale to measure diabetes burnout
  10. National Library of Medicine The Association of Hemoglobin A1c Levels and Depression Among Adults With Diabetes in the United States
  11. Science Direct Relation between diabetes related distress and glycemic control: The mediating effect of adherence to treatment
  12. CDC Dealing With Diabetes Burnout

About the Author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville, and I am the founder of Diabetic Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996, I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world. I currently use a Medtronic Guardian 4 CGM and a MiniMed 780G insulin pump with Humalog insulin.

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