Research shows that diabetics are at higher risk for mood disorders and other mental illness. During the often tumultuous teenage years, it’s important for parents and caregivers of teens with diabetes to understand how diabetes and mental health interact.
Why mental health is crucial for teens with diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetic teens tend to show 2-3 times the rate of psychological distress than their peers without diabetes.
Living with diabetes is not easy and can add to the other stress that teens experience. Stress has a negative effect on diabetes, leading to a feedback loop if both a teen’s stress and diabetes are not managed correctly.
Here are some tips for supporting the mental health of teens with diabetes.
Every teenager wants to be more independent, including those with diabetes. New technology can make it easier than ever for teens to take on a larger role in their diabetes care. Cell phone apps can sync to continuous glucose monitors (see our previous blog “The 411 on CGM” for more information), allowing teens to take initiative while their parents are kept in the loop with automatic updates.
The busy lives of teens can leave no room for personal time to recharge. Especially during stressful times like finals, encourage your teen to take short breaks. Spending a few minutes to take a walk, listen to music, or do something else enjoyable can do wonders to lower stress.
Build a foundation of self-esteem and acceptance
Insecurity can cause teens with diabetes to try and hide their condition from peers. From a young age, educate your child about diabetes and how each part of their diabetes management plan is important. This will instill self-confidence and a greater sense of self-understanding in your child.
Be aware of warning signs
Early detection of psychological distress is important, especially for teens with diabetes. If you notice your teen has lost interest in their favorite activities or has unexpectedly lost or gained weight, check in with your teen and consider getting the help of a professional if needed.
Take care of your own mental health as a caregiver
Several studies have shown that caregivers of children with diabetes have a higher likelihood of depression. While caring for your child, don’t neglect your own mental health. Try joining a local support group for parents of children with type 1 diabetes. Talking with other parents in the same situation can do wonders to boost your outlook.
Wellness of body and mind for diabetic teens is possible
The teenage years are the best time to develop good habits for both physical and mental health. For teens with diabetes, these good habits allow a smooth transition into self-sufficient diabetes management in adulthood.