Diabetes distress is an emotional and very rational response to developing diabetes. It can be a life changing condition and the demands of diabetes management can affect each individual differently. Severe diabetes distress can affect 1 in 5 people with insulin treated type 2 diabetes, and 1 in 6 people with non-insulin treated type 2 diabetes. But diabetes distress is a reasonable response to the pressures of a long-term condition, and it should not be seen as a ‘condition’ itself.
Symptoms of diabetes distress include:
- Feelings of anger, depression or being scared about living with diabetes
- Poor management of diabetes such as not taking medication as recommended, not monitoring blood glucose levels etc
- Having a raised HbA1c
- Having recurrent hypoglycaemia periods
- Feeling tired or having little energy
- Feeling afraid that something bad could happen
The symptoms of diabetes distress can fluctuate over time and could flare up during challenging periods or general stressful times, and if left untreated, symptoms could worsen and/or depression could develop.
There are a number of different questionnaires available to help healthcare professionals to screen for diabetes distress, but input from a mental health specialist could help to make a full diagnosis and suggest treatment options. There are ways to treat diabetes distress and some of the interventions may include a structured diabetes education programme or supportive interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy or talking therapies.
If you feel that you, or someone you know, is struggling with diabetes distress, you should always speak to the GP or a member of your diabetes care team.
Berry E, Lockhart S, Davies M, Lindsay JR and Dempster M (2015) ‘Diabetes Distress: Understanding the hidden struggles of living with diabetes and exploring intervention strategies’, Postgraduates Medical Journal, 91, pp. 278-283.
Diabetes UK (No Date) Chapter 3 – Diabetes Distress. (Available at
health-professionals-guide/chapter-3-diabetes-distress) Accessed on 12 January 2023.
McInerney AM, Lindekilde N, Nouwen A, Schmitz N and Deschenes SS (2022) ‘Diabetes distress, depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms in people with type 2 diabetes: A network analysis approach to understanding comorbidity’, Diabetes Care, 45(8), pp. 1715-1723.