Why Should Teens Consider Counseling?
The teenage years can be tough for you and your parents. You want more freedom in your life and your diabetes care. Your parents are probably trying to find that balance between too much supervision and too little. You want to “fit in” just like anyone else. But having to take care of your diabetes every day can make that challenging. These are just a few of the conflicts that can cause not only stress for you and your parents but also stress between you and your parents.
Counseling or “talk therapy” may help improve family communication and problem solving, which may improve your diabetes management. Specifically, family-based therapy that focuses on the following aspects of diabetes care has been shown to help:
- Goal setting
- Positive reinforcement
- Behavioral “contracts”
- Supportive parental communications
- Shared responsibility for diabetes management
Keep the lines of communication open
Your parents may be able to help you with problems you might be facing. Turn to your parents or another responsible adult if you are dealing with difficult issues. It is also important for you and your parents to pay attention to how well you’re doing in other areas of your life besides diabetes management, such as at school, at home, and with friends.
Try to reduce the level of family tensions
Diabetes can cause tension between family members. If your family has a high level of this kind of tension, it may help cause or worsen depression. You and your family members need to talk (not argue!) to create more understanding and less fighting. This may help you better follow your care plan, which may help you better control your blood sugar. Remember, even as you are becoming more independent of your parents and other caregivers, their support is still helpful—don’t push them away if they are trying to help.
If you are depressed, you may have trouble taking care of your diabetes and controlling blood sugar. That’s why screening for depression and other emotional problems is recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Please consult your health care professional if you have any questions about your health or treatment.
Some of the warning signs of depression among teens with type 1 diabetes include:
- Checking blood sugar less frequently
- Having a higher A1C
- Having more family tensions related to diabetes
- Having parents who feel more burdened by diabetes
Unfortunately, research and medical studies have found that teens with type 1 diabetes are more likely to suffer from depression (feeling sad or “blue” for a long period of time) than teenagers without type 1 diabetes. Everyone has a down day every now and then, so it’s hard to know if you are depressed or just going through a rough patch. But if you are having symptoms for at least 2 weeks, it could be depression. And, if you think you may be depressed, consider counseling.
Be aware of the signs of depression. Contact a health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Trouble sleeping
- Lower energy levels
- Change in appetite and/or loss of enjoyment of certain foods
- Weight gain or loss
- Trouble focusing or making decisions
- Feelings of guilt or low self-worth
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Remember, this short list does not take the place of talking to a health care provider. If you have any questions about your emotional health, ask your parent or someone on your diabetes care team for help.
For questions about getting counseling and referrals, please make sure to talk to your health care provider.