Beyond blood sugar levels: The emotional rollercoaster of brittle diabetes

Individuals living with brittle diabetes often withdraw from social interactions


Diabetes, a chronic ailment impacting millions worldwide, is frequently linked with the need to monitor blood sugar levels and manage physical symptoms. Yet, for individuals grappling with brittle diabetes, the emotional burden can prove as demanding as the incessant glucose level fluctuations. In an interview with Dr Sandeep Kharb, Senior Consultant – Endocrinology, Asian Hospital, Faridabad, we delve into the lesser-explored facet of diabetes: the emotional whirlwind endured by those with brittle diabetes.

November 14 is World Diabetes Day

Dr Sandeep Kharb Dr Sandeep Kharb

What is brittle diabetes?

Brittle diabetes, also recognized as labile diabetes, represents an uncommon and severe manifestation of the ailment characterized by extreme blood sugar oscillations. Unlike the more predictable blood sugar patterns observed in typical diabetes cases, individuals with brittle diabetes grapple with rapidly fluctuating glucose levels that can perilously plummet or skyrocket within mere hours, or even minutes. This erratic unpredictability ushers in an array of challenges that extend beyond physical health implications.

Does the condition lead to fear in patients?

Fear is a predominant condition among those contending with brittle diabetes. The capriciousness of glucose levels and the potential for severe hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia cultivate a perpetual state of anxiety. These individuals often live in dread of sudden blood sugar drops, which can result in loss of consciousness, seizures, or even fatality. Conversely, they are haunted by the complications stemming from sustained high blood sugar levels, such as organ damage, nerve disorders, and vision impairment.

Why does brittle diabetes give rise to guilt and shame?

Living with brittle diabetes can provoke overwhelming sentiments of guilt and shame. Patients frequently indict themselves for their condition, believing they have fallen short in their management endeavours. Even with the utmost dedication and strict adherence to their treatment regimens, the abrupt blood sugar swings can leave them feeling powerless and inadequate. This emotional burden can be paralyzing, wreaking havoc on self-esteem and overall mental well-being.

What are the other common feelings associated with this kind of diabetes?

The perpetual battle to sustain steady blood sugar levels despite diligent efforts can be profoundly exasperating. People with brittle diabetes may experience anger directed towards their bodies or the ailment itself. These sentiments can strain relationships with loved ones and foster a sense of isolation, as others may struggle to grasp the daily struggle they endure.

Can depression also be a fallout?

The emotional rollercoaster of brittle diabetes can precipitate clinical depression. The stress, anxiety, and sensations of helplessness can erode an individual's mental well-being over time. Managing a chronic condition that eludes their best endeavours can render individuals overwhelmed and fatigued, contributing to a pervasive undercurrent of melancholy and despondency.

How difficult is it for such individuals to maintain healthy social interactions?

Owing to the unpredictability of their condition, individuals living with brittle diabetes often withdraw from social interactions. They may opt out of social gatherings and events due to health concerns, leading to sensations of isolation and detachment from their social circles. The fear of experiencing a blood sugar episode in public can be paralyzing, hindering them from participating in routine activities.

What are some coping strategies?

While the emotional obstacles presented by brittle diabetes are formidable, there exist coping strategies to help individuals navigate this rollercoaster.

Such strategies include:

Education and Support: Seek out healthcare professionals, support groups, and educational resources to enhance your understanding of the condition and connect with others facing similar challenges. Knowledge is a potent tool in managing the emotional facets of brittle diabetes.


Self-Compassion: Acknowledge that managing brittle diabetes constitutes an ongoing struggle, replete with setbacks. Practice self-compassion and be gentle with yourself, recognizing that you are giving your best effort.


Communication: Foster open dialogues with friends and family about your condition, fears, and trials. Constructing a support network can diminish feelings of isolation and guilt.


Professional Assistance: Do not hesitate to seek professional aid if you grapple with symptoms of depression or anxiety. Therapists and counsellors can supply invaluable guidance and support.


Beyond the numerical metrics and treatment protocols, brittle diabetes encompasses a multifaceted emotional journey. It is imperative to acknowledge the emotional toll it exacts on those enduring this condition and extend support, comprehension, and empathy. By illuminating the emotional turbulence of brittle diabetes, we can strive to break the stigma and heighten awareness regarding the unique challenges confronting these individuals. Through education, support, and compassion, we can aid those with brittle diabetes in traversing their emotional tribulations and leading enriching lives.


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