The Diabetes Blame Game

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I'm a diabetic and I honestly haven't seen anyone try to stigmatize me, at least to my face, and everyone I've talked to has been pretty supportive.  I think that this might have a lot to do with the fact that I'm of normal weight, not overweight at all that is, and it's true that people think that we generally eat our way into type 2 diabetes.  I guess I'm pretty much off the hook for that one, so perhaps they can't think of any reason to blame me, just fate perhaps, some weird twist of fate because we all know people eat their way to this disease.

I read an article today which deals with this topic, about how many people judge, blame, and stigmatize diabetics, including, surprisingly enough, type 1 diabetics as well.  I hadn't thought of type 1 diabetics being stigmatized too much but it turns out, if this survey is representative, and there's no reason to think it isn't, it's actually worse with them.

So among the findings, they reported that 72% of type 1 diabetics feel stigmatized, compared to 52% of type 2 diabetics.  Those are some pretty high numbers indeed.  Among type 2's, 61% of those on insulin felt stigmatized, with 51% of those not on insulin feeling this way.

One of the things I did notice though in talking to people is that very often, the first thing they ask me when I tell them I am a diabetic is whether I am on insulin or not, and when I tell them I'm not, they say that's great.  I don't know what it is about injecting yourself but it seems to be something that the public shudders at, although I must admit I shudder a bit as well at the prospect, not having done this before.

These concerns, misgivings, or sympathies aren't a matter of assigning blame though, so I had to think on why people who inject insulin, type 1's and type 2's alike, have a higher percentage of people who feel stigmatized.  My best guess here is that injecting insulin does make you overweight, more so than oral meds, and this may have to do with the higher obesity rates that this causes.

I do think that it's fair to say that obesity plus diabetes equals being blamed more and being stigmatized more, and overweight and especially obese people deal with the stigma of this even without diabetes, that's for sure.

When you add in diabetes to obesity, well that's a double whammy really, and it becomes something like well you let yourself get fat and look where that got you.

What actually causes diabetes is a whole topic onto itself and one that merits a lot of further discussion, but for now it will suffice to say that since being obese, no matter how obese, isn't a sufficient condition for being a diabetic, in other words most obese people don't get diabetes, we can't say that you did it to yourself.

We can't even say that obese people did it to themselves either, as this is not a matter of how much you eat, even though a lot of people may think that, there are obese people who eat less than average but they are still obese, because it's not just about how much food you eat.  Some may eat more but there often is physiological reasons for this, leptin resistance for example, or high insulin levels, both of which can increase appetite substantially.

What a cruel world this is though when so many people take pleasure in berating the sick.  As it turns out, in the majority of cases at least, this is without cause, only these people don't have a clue and even if they did, it's fun to blame people I guess and it would take a lot for them to deny themselves this "pleasure."

Probably the worst example of this is how many parents of type 1 children feel stigmatized, 83% of them, they probably feel bad enough but somehow it's supposed to be all their fault even though type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with lifestyle choices at all, yet these people are still blamed heavily for this.

It's important though that we do not add to the problem by blaming ourselves though.  There's enough stupidity going around already.

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