Psychology & Diabetes: A Crossroads of Physical and Mental Health

The June 2017 edition of Monitor on Psychology features a cover story that further highlighted the importance of integrating mental and physical health with one another to alleviate symptoms associated with chronic diseases. Entitled “Facing Diabetes”, the article provides an understanding of how Diabetes (Types 1 & 2) affects the human body while noting how interventions rooted in psychology are increasingly recognized as key to successful treatment. Diabetes is a disease that prevents the body from producing and/or using insulin properly, thus affecting one’s energy level and creating an environment for high blood pressure, kidney failure, and stroke (due to high blood “sugar”).

Ninety-five percent of Americans have Type 2 diabetes, meaning their bodies do not use insulin properly. Daily management of both types requires engaging in life-altering measures, including monitoring meals, performing regular glucose checks, and maintaining a medication regimen. These drastic changes can lead to stress, anxiety, and burn-out which, in turn, further exacerbate the effect of diabetes on the body. In addition to disordered eating behavior, these psychological problems can worsen overall medical conditions.

I became very intrigued by the relationship between stress, anxiety, and depression and chronic diseases, and how integrated care can alleviate diabetes symptoms specifically. I took the opportunity to interview a former student that has managed Diabetes Type 1 for most of his life to get an even better understanding of managing diabetes and the impact on his overall mental health.

Antoine’s Story
“You’re Literally Paying to Stay Alive”

Antoine is a 24-year-old professional musician and native of Atlanta, GA. Growing up in Decatur, a suburb just 10 miles east of downtown, Antoine was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes age the age of 8. He developed a passion for music soon thereafter and became a student leader in the music program at Stephenson High School before receiving his formal music education in the wind ensemble and Marching 100 at the world-renowned Florida A&M University. He currently travels around the world performing in a variety of venues from local artisan lounges to major music festivals. I had the opportunity to interview Antoine to gain a better understanding of how diabetes has had an impact on his mental and emotional wellbeing.

VG: As a child, what was your understanding of your diagnosis and the impact that it would have once you became an adult?

Antoine:  In January of 2002, I was 8 years old. I was sick on and off (diabetes onset is a gradual process) for about a month before the doctors figured out what was wrong. I’m the only person in my