Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Measuring Parental Distress of a Type 1 Diagnosis

According to a Yale School of Nursing study, 33.5 percent of parents of children with Type 1 experience psychological distress upon the event of a child’s diagnosis, and 19 percent of parents report psychological stress one to four years after diagnosis. Researchers arrived at these figures by reviewing 34 peer-reviewed studies on parents of children with Type 1.

It’s not surprising that parents might experience profound psychological distress in the period after an initial Type 1 diagnosis; in fact, it’s a bit surprising those figures cited aren’t higher. Researchers warn, however, that there aren’t enough support mechanisms in place to ensure that such distress doesn’t evolve into depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD.

Children in the various studies ranged in age from about four years old to 14 years old, with parental distress being more prevalent the younger the child’s age of diagnosis. That distress is generated from the shock of diagnosis and the upheaval that blood sugar management brings. Meals were the most common part of daily life affected by a Type 1 diagnosis, parents reported. A child’s diagnosis also often required a mother to adjust her work schedule or leave her job altogether. Parents described their experience post-diagnosis as “life-altering” and “all-consuming.”

Previous research has revealed that children with Type 1 often have undiagnosed depression or exhibit depressive symptoms but do not receive treatment. The same appears to be true for parents of children with diabetes, and study authors suggest families of newly diagnosed children should seek professional mental health support. The researchers noted that when a parent’s distress level went up, a child’s blood sugar management suffered as a result. This points to the need for parents to care for themselves the best they can, if they want to care for their children the best they can.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.

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