Many people around the world are feeling the effects of burnout from having lived through a pandemic for the last couple of years. They’re tired of wearing masks and social distancing, and I completely understand it. But when you experience burnout from your diabetes, you are unable to simply stop thinking about it; you have to continue to care for yourself.
So, what are you supposed to do when you experience diabetes burnout? Can you prevent burnout, or is it bound to happen to everyone at some point? What resources are available to you? How do you find out if you truly have burnout and aren’t just having a bad day or week or month? We’ll make sure you are able to answer those questions by the end of this article, so you can be prepared if it happens to you.
What is Diabetes Burnout?
Diabetes burnout is when someone feels emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion from having diabetes.1 It’s associated with both diabetes distress and depression, both of which can contribute to worsening diabetes management. All these conditions tend to appear, on average, between the ages of 26-32 years old.
Common symptoms of diabetes burnout are:
- Exhaustion – mental, emotional, or physical
- Separating from support system
- Detachment from diabetes care
- Feeling powerless or overwhelmed
- Anger, frustration, or apathy
How do I know if I’m experiencing Diabetes Burnout?
There is a common tool that you can use to measure diabetes distress, and now there is a tool that has been validated for diabetes burnout as well.2 The new scale is called the Diabetes Burnout Scale, and it asks 12 questions about symptoms that are related to diabetes burnout. If your healthcare provider is not familiar with any of these scales, they probably know what’s called a Patient Health-Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) that screens for depression.
Can you Prevent Diabetes Burnout?
There have not been any proven methods of preventing diabetes burnout as of yet, but it could be helpful to ensure that you maintain your mental health and develop an adequate support system to help reduce your risk of burnout. Hopefully more studies will be completed, and we can report back on what those recommendations are for preventing diabetes burnout.
How to Get Help:
We all need help sometimes in life, and this is certainly true when it comes to diabetes. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to ask for help! It can feel daunting to admit that you are having a hard time, but once you get the help you need, you’ll be so glad you did. I can personally attest to this, as someone who finally got treated for anxiety and depression after having children, and I wish I’d asked for help sooner.
If you have a support person that can help you manage your symptoms, take over some of your diabetes-related tasks, or find you the help you need, ask them as soon as you begin to notice those symptoms of burnout. Parents or support people, if you notice your loved one with diabetes acting a little extra irritable with infusion set changes, or those wonderful insurance phone calls, offering help even for small tasks like filling a cartridge can be so appreciated! (Shout out to my partner, Adam!)
Your diabetes team may be able to help ease your burden as well, and they may know diabetes psychologists who can provide even more assistance. The American Diabetes Association has a Mental Health Provider Directory where you can search for a psychologist who understands the challenges of diabetes. Another thing that always helps me when I’m mad at my diabetes is talking to my friends with diabetes, because they truly understand my frustrations, and sometimes there’s just no replacing that empathy.
Whether you’re new to diabetes or have been living with it for years, some days are just hard. Acknowledging the many feelings you experience related to your diabetes is important. Once you acknowledge these feelings, you can then take the steps to make sure you’re doing everything possible to stay safe and healthy. We have a list of upcoming virtual and in-person events at cwd.is/community to help you find your support system.
- Unraveling the concepts of distress, burnout, and depression in type 1 diabetes: A scoping review
- Development and validation of a scale to measure diabetes burnout
Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES