Three things to know about

Mental health in Type 1 diabetes

By Anne Riker Garlington
Dr. Kimberly Driscoll
Dr. Kimberly A. Driscoll

Kimberly A. Driscoll, Ph.D., an associate professor of clinical and health psychology at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, focuses on the psychological aspects of Type 1 diabetes for adults, children and families. The director of behavioral science research for the UF Diabetes Institute, Driscoll recently published “Type 1 Diabetes Mental Health Workbook” to help practitioners better serve their patients.

Driscoll was motivated to write the workbook while serving as a presenter during workshops to educate mental health providers about Type 1 diabetes. She also heard repeatedly from her patients that they wanted mental health providers who understand Type 1 diabetes. Driscoll saw the direct impact of her research, which focuses on providing interventions to improve Type 1 diabetes physical and psychological health outcomes. One father even told Driscoll that she had “changed [their] lives” by helping them overcome a phobia about low hypoglycemia.

Driscoll shares three things providers who care for people with Type 1 diabetes should know.

1) There is a critical shortage of mental health providers who have expertise in the psychology of Type 1 diabetes. In recognition of the shortage, the American Diabetes Association provides a free workshop series to educate mental health providers on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes: Diabetes Education 101 for the Behavioral Health Provider Program.

Young girl using continuous glucose monitoring
Young girl using continuous glucose monitoring

2) The rates of mental health concerns are higher in people with chronic health conditions than in the general population. People with Type 1 diabetes may experience some unique mental health concerns, such as fear of hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, or family conflict about diabetes. Depression is also common, but so is burnout related to managing all of the aspects of Type 1 diabetes.

3) There are many evidence-based treatments that can be used by providers who see Type 1 diabetes patients with mental health concerns. Driscoll’s workbook is the first of its kind in diabetes. Her workbook provides an overview of important aspects of a chronic illness: grief and adjustment, management across developmental stages, depression and anxiety, and more. Worksheets are included to help engage children and adolescents and their parents who seek treatment.