Tips for acknowledging and overcoming diabetes stereotypes.
February 19, 2018 - Author: Pamela Daniels, Pam Daniels, Michigan State University Extension
Stereotyping is common surrounding diabetes. Every now and then, it’s good practice to remind ourselves to not sit in judgment and make false accusations about individuals living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes (T1D, T2D). Imagine what it is like living and managing diabetes while hearing constant, negative and blameful comments steered at how you “contracted” the disease.
Perhaps second only to smoking, individuals with diabetes are constantly judged about the role self-care may have played in their disease diagnosis.
There are a variety of risk factors for T1D & T2D that are not at all reflected in outward appearance. Far too many times individuals with diabetes are subjected to comments such as, “The reason you have diabetes is...”
- You’re overweight.
- You must not be exercising.
- You must eat a lot of sugar.
- You obviously haven’t take good care of yourself.
If the above statements were true, everyone in the population that is overweight, doesn’t participate in an exercise routine, and eats a lot of sugar should be diabetic. That is clearly not the case.
These types of comments tend to have a common theme, “blaming” and “shaming”. We must take the emphasis off ridicule and replace it with a better understanding of the varied risk factors associated with diabetes. In doing so, we clearly see what influences our risks of diabetes goes well beyond outward appearance.
Diabetes risk factors not associated with body image
It is true that weight and inactivity are among risk factors for type 2 diabetes. But aside from weight and level of physical activity, there are other risk factors (T2D) not associated with body image such as, race, ethnicity, age and:
- Metabolic Syndrome- which is defined as a group of diseases: unhealthy high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar level
- Prescription medications you take daily. Some produce side effects which may impact blood sugar levels
- Family history
- Environmental influences
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
This is not the full list of T2D risk factors and it isn’t entirely clear what triggers T1D. You can learn more about your own risk by asking your health care professional. For more diabetes diagnosis information visit, Endocrine Web or Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes .
Diabetes is complex and diagnosis may include multiple variables. For those newly diagnosed, diabetes can cause emotional pain and distress. The same emotional pain and distress can be experienced by individuals who’ve battled T1D or T2D for years.
To overcome perceived judgements, strive to be mindful and consider:
- Use appropriate language - How we speak about diabetes and the language we use lies in our attitudes, social perception, personal identity, intergroup bias, and stereotyping
- Cultural humility
- Mindfulness and overall sensitivity
- Acknowledge the strength and courage it takes for individuals to carry out their daily diabetes self-management care tasks
No one wishes to have diabetes, no one deserves to be shamed by living with the disease either. Blaming, shaming and ridiculing won’t produce social tolerance for this disease which is now at epidemic proportions.
Michigan State University Extension salutes individuals and families who live with and manage their diabetes on a daily basis.