Patients with Type 2 diabetes often require additional guidance because of the many behaviors necessary to maintain their health. Modern healthcare has an impressive array of tools to treat Type 2 diabetes, yet morbidity and mortality associated with Type 2 diabetes is astoundingly high.
Thankfully, as medical technology has advanced, so too has the scientific understanding of the connections between the mind and the body. Professionals who specialize in behavior can bridge the gap between the medical needs of patients and the psychological factors that prevent them from making use of medical expertise.
For example, let’s take a look at the fictitious case of “Mrs. X.” She’s considered obese and has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in addition to needing a knee replacement. Mrs. X has a great relationship with her doctor, who has spoken with her extensively about how to manage her diabetes, but she is still failing to properly follow through on her treatment.
A behavioral health professional, such as a psychologist, can engage in psychotherapy or health behavior coaching to help Mrs. X identify and overcome practical and psychological barriers that prevent her from setting and reaching her health goals.
A psychotherapist can help Mrs. X recognize how stress and negative emotions trigger spikes in blood sugar, then work with her to devise individualized stress management strategies. Mrs. X comforts herself with high-calorie, fatty and sweet foods, and then feels ashamed as she gains weight. Her clothes no longer fit and she isolates herself at home, leading to worsening symptoms of depression.
Individuals with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression, which can greatly impact their ability to adhere to proper treatment protocols. A psychotherapist can help Mrs. X learn to problem solve and cope more effectively. For many patients, having someone with whom they can explore the challenges to “doing the right thing” leads to transformative growth and empowerment that enables them to reach health goals that previously seemed impossible.
It’s crucial for diabetes patients to address the issues of the mind and the body simultaneously. By developing professional relationships with psychologists, social workers and other behavioral specialists, patients can effectively resolve – in a healthy way – the issues that may be acting as roadblocks to their success.
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Photo Credit: Alan Levine