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Getting Over the Shock of Diabetes Diagnosis

Luck, said Aristotle, is when an arrow hits the guy standing next to you. But when that arrow comes out of the blue and hits you—with a diagnosis of diabetes—“it can shake you to the core,” says John Zrebiec, MSW, CDE, Associate Director of Joslin’s Behavioral Health Services.

After the diagnosis of diabetes, “You name the feeling and people are going to have it,” says Zrebiec. Some people can’t sleep, burst into tears, or worry a lot. “These are all very normal responses.”

Other Common Reactions Are:

  • Questioning why this happened to me
  • Feelings of helplessness and vulnerability
  • Changes in self-esteem or body image
  • Fears of making treatment mistakes or dying
  • Fears about how others will treat you

Tips to Move On

Learn as much about diabetes as possible. Most people don’t know much at first, so this is not easy.  “It’s like taking a post-graduate course at a time when you’re emotionally overwhelmed,” says Zrebiec. “But it is important to learn survival skills to re-establish a sense of control.”

Try to rally support from family and friends to help you deal. Research shows that the more support you get, the better off you are.

Who Should See a Counselor?

“I think everyone should see a counselor at least once after being diagnosed,” suggests Zrebiec. It’s as important as the medical appointments and diabetes education, in his view. “We can talk about what it is like to be diagnosed, the struggles you can expect, and how you are going to live with it.”

Do you see yourself as sick, victimized, dependent and pessimistic, or as normal, optimistic, independent and in control? How you define yourself in relation to your diabetes may make a dramatic difference in your emotional well-being and how well you take care of yourself.  

Other Resources from Joslin

Joslin's Diabetes Discussion Boards offer an opportunity for you to communicate with others who have diabetes and their families.

You can find more information about all aspects of diabetes in The Joslin Guide to Diabetes available from Joslin's Online Store.

Click here.

Page last updated: November 07, 2019