Psychological Factors of Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses

A couple of weeks ago, as a board member of the American Diabetes Association in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, I had the privilege of discussing the psychological aspects of diabetes with the Denver CBS affiliate. I’ve included the link here. The following are highlights that are worth consideration.

There are a number of factors that can either enhance or undermine diabetes and other chronic illness management and wellbeing. Depression and/or anxiety can co-occur as a result of receiving one of these diagnoses. If untreated, patients with co-occurring diagnoses have difficulty following through on the numerous daily tasks required to live a healthy life with one or more of these chronic illnesses. In addition, from a payer’s perspective the cost of treatment are over 150% higher when depression co-occurs.

Who would not have some degree of depression or anxiety when faced with a life-long chronic illness to manage? How the person copes with the symptoms is an important variable. Cognitive-behavioral techniques related to adherence and relapse on self-care can be invaluable. Social support and social networks have always been important in managing chronic illness. Alcoholics Anonymous is a great example of peer support for the chronic illness of alcoholism. Patients with chronic illnesses face potential burn-out regarding both the illness and the complexities related to compliance. The social support network provides coping modeling from peers, support from family and friends, and social comparison ideas from others who are successful in managing their illness.

Sometimes, the illness combinations are so complicated that outside help is needed in the form of Intensive Case Management. This becomes necessary when there are multiple providers that need to be communicating about the patient, complex psychological elements that need to be addressed, and family systems that may be fragile or even undermining the patient’s care.  Integrated behavioral health systems working in concert with medical systems, data mining, and other auxiliary providers significantly increase the chances for the patient and the payer to successfully manage the illness thereby increasing the patient’s quality of life.

Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., CEO and Psychologist

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