Denial is that voice inside repeating: “Not me.” Most people go through denial when they are first diagnosed with diabetes. “I don’t believe it. There must be some mistake,” they say.

That first reaction is not the real problem. In fact, it’s so common that some doctors think it’s part of the process of accepting the diagnosis.

The trouble comes when you keep on denying your diabetes. Long-term denial stops you from learning what you need to know to keep yourself healthy.


Why Deny?

Sometimes denial serves a purpose. It is a way of coping with bad news. It can keep you from getting overwhelmed and depressed. It lets you accept news little by little, when you are ready.

But denial can return later on because it seems easier. Denying that your diabetes is serious lets you avoid self-care. It shields you from the fact that diabetes is a lifelong, chronic illness, which, if left untreated, can result in complications. Denial also lets your family and friends pretend that “nothing is wrong.”

Doctors who do not specialize in diabetes care may fuel your denial. They may talk about a “mild” case of diabetes or say there is “just a touch of sugar” in your blood. Though well-meaning, these terms send the wrong message. What you hear is “Don’t worry. Your diabetes is not serious enough to hurt you.”


Spotting Denial

Denial has a few catch phrases. If you hear yourself thinking or saying them, you are avoiding some part of your diabetes care.

  • One bite won’t hurt.
  • This sore will heal by itself.
  • I’ll go to the doctor later.
  • I don’t have time to do it.
  • My diabetes isn’t serious.
  • I only have to take a pill, not shots.

Hidden Danger

Because denial can creep into any aspect of diabetes self-care, it can be dangerous. Any denial sabotages your health care.

Not Testing

It can be a bother to check your blood glucose regularly. You may decide you “know” what your blood glucose is by how you feel. But a meter is a much better measure of blood glucose than feelings are.


You might tell yourself, “I only take a few puffs.” You may say smoking keeps you from eating too much. “If I quit, I’ll gain weight.” Smoking and diabetes are a deadly duo. Smoking increases your risk for complications. Quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Ignoring Your Meal Plan

Changing eating habits and food choices is tough. When your doctor told you to see a dietitian, follow a meal plan, and change your eating habits, maybe you thought
to yourself:

  • It’s too expensive to see a registered dietitian.
  • I can’t ask my family to change what they eat. I don’t want to eat alone or fix two meals.
  • There’s no place to buy healthy food where I work.
  • It’s too hard to bring my lunch.

Eating right may not be as difficult as you think. A dietitian can help you put together a plan that meets your personal needs.

Forgetting Your Feet

You know you should check your feet each day, but it takes too much time. Or you forget. Or you have limited mobility and it’s too hard. Washing and checking your feet for signs of trouble every day is essential to avoid serious injury. This is true no matter what type of diabetes you have.

Confronting Denial

Denial is human. It’s bound to crop up from time to time. When it does, you can recognize what’s going on and fight back.

  • Make a plan — Write down your diabetes care plan and your health care goals. Understand why each item in your plan is important. Accept that it will take time to reach your goals.
  • Ask for help — If you find you are denying some parts of your diabetes care, ask your diabetes educator for help. If you have trouble with your food plan, talk to a registered dietitian. Together you can come up with solutions.
  • Enlist friends and family — Tell your friends and family how they can help. Let them know that encouraging you to go off your plan is not a kindness. Inform them about how you take care of your diabetes — they might want to adopt some of your healthy habits.