Common anxieties and concerns for teens with type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can add additional stress to teenage years.

It’s probably no surprise that teenagers, as a group, share many similar interests. Pew Research Center noted up to 93 percent of all teenagers use smartphones, the internet, watch television, use gaming consoles, shop and hang out with friends. Overall, teens share many common anxieties such as schoolwork, bullying, body image, and social acceptance. They are influenced by having similar, positive and negative influences. They share a mindset of what matters to them.

Teens with T1D share commonalities

Teenagers with type 1 diabetes (T1D) experience the same things all teenagers do. However, adding to the common teen issues, they are consumed daily with the biological tasks of self-managing their diabetes. It’s a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year job. Ironically, many T1D teens struggle to achieve adequate blood glucose goals, in part caused by the common teen challenges surrounding physical and social nuances.        

Teens identify what matters most

Research as stated in The Diabetes Educator revealed the eight most common indicators of anxiety or worry identified by T1D teens (average age of 15.7 years) is as follows:

  1. Interactions with Peers – “I want to talk to someone who understands”
  2. Emotional well-being – “Diabetes makes me want to cry”
  3. Blood glucose management – “My blood sugar never goes down”
  4. Physical well-being – The desire to live physically healthy and pain free
  5. Education & motivation of others – Sharing information & encouragement with other T1D & family members
  6. Family interactions – Struggling parent-child or child-sibling relationships
  7. Academic achievement – Current and future educational performance
  8. Interactions with important others such as teachers –Wanting greater understanding from teachers and healthcare providers regarding the challenges of T1D

The study concluded that ultimately teens with T1D desire to achieve feeling normal and to live a typical life. T1D teens are exceedingly concerned about their blood glucose management which can be typically triggered by anxiety. The study went on to match similar research findings noting teens with T1D feel different from their peers.

It is unrealistic to think teens will not experience occasional anxiety. Noticing and talking to teens about their feelings, pressures and anxieties is the first step. It’s time to take action when their anxiety is combined with other symptoms like change in sleep, eating, weight and personal care.

For more information on type 1 and type 2 diabetes visit Michigan State University Extension

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