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From New Jersey, USA:

My question is not for myself but for a family member. Last year my teenage cousin (15 years old) was diagnosed with diabetes. At times he refuses to take his shots, or follow his diet and exercise program. This is very difficult for his parents. What sort of organizations out there that can help parents deal with this? My teenage cousin refuses to even talk about it. What can his parents do?


Rebellion in teenagers with diabetes is very common. Almost all teenagers will experiment with eating too much or too little, and may refuse to follow a formal exercise program (the latter usually only works when the teen participates in some activity he or she enjoys).

Repeatedly not giving injections, however, is a form of rebellion that can lead to very dangerous consequences, namely ketoacidosis, and needs to be treated as a sign of a serious psychological problem (perhaps even treated like suicide attempt if occurring repeatedly). This problem usually requires the individual attention of a psychiatrist or psychologist, preferably one who has worked with teens with diabetes.

Please be aware, however, if your cousin is still in the honeymoon or remission phase when his body is still making a lot of insulin, he may have correctly discovered, that not following his meal plan, not exercising, and even not taking his insulin may not significantly affect his blood sugar. In this case, one cannot make the argument of a serious psychological problem. Instead, he should have close contact with his physician to understand that usually it is better to continue the insulin during this transient, though sometimes prolonged phase, and understand that when the remission wears off and he needs more insulin, he may get into serious trouble if he skips his insulin and doesn't pay more attention to diet and exercise.

I find that teenagers are usually resistant to support groups, though their parents may find it helpful. I would suggest that his parents ask his physician about local support groups. He is also still young enough to attend many of the camps for diabetic children. This is often the best "support group" for teenagers themselves.


Original posting 28 Feb 97


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:54
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