Why online support may be the answer to your diabetes burnout

Posted: November 29, 2011 in Diabetes
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by JoVon Sotak | August 24, 2011

“New insulin pump arrived today. Still in box. #diabetesburnout,” tweeted user AndreaWrape.

Long before Twitter arrived, Dr. William H. Polonsky, PhD coined the term “diabetes burnout” in his 1999 book, Diabetes Burnout: What To Do When You Can’t Take It Anymore. Today, Twitter is one of the many online tools that can help you deal with burnout, confirmed Dr. Polonsky, who shared which types of online diabetes support technology are the most helpful for dealing with diabetes burnout.

Getting the right kind of support

“By my definition of diabetes burnout, most people are probably in greater, immediate need of emotional support than they are in need of behavioral management,” said Polonsky. “Behavior management is a great idea and is useful for anybody, but typically you want to seek emotional support beforehand.”

Appolicious.com lists 160 diabetes mobile applications for the iPhone. How many are for diabetes management? Most of them.

“Most of my patients know what to do, they just don’t have the oomph to do it,” said Polonsky, who cautions anyone experiencing burnout from becoming more overwhelmed by technological solutions, especially 160 possible solutions. “When a person is overwhelmed or freaked out about diabetes, you probably don’t need anybody–online or in person–giving you a long list of tips you can try.”

“People who are burned out end up feeling like it’s all their fault or they’re bad people or wonder what’s wrong with them,” explained Polonsky. “If done well, it makes eminent sense that these sorts of social media connections could be helpful. Once you know you’re not the only one, once you know you’re not a bad person, once you know it’s normal to go through a tough time, it gets easier.”

Best online support for diabetes burnout

Technology can extend emotional support and acceptance beyond an online forum. Status updates via Twitter and Facebook can help you connect with other individuals with diabetes and allow you to advertise your own self-care efforts. Facebook hosts several diabetes support groups and many cities have diabetes support MeetUp.com groups. The Behavioral Diabetes Institute, founded by Polonsky who is also the organization’s CEO, is currently developing live, Skype-based support groups to help those suffering from burnout.

Technology brings people together easily, which is critical for successfully dealing with burnout. “Evidence suggests that one of the things that work best is when you don’t have to do it alone and when you have people in your life who are rooting for you and supporting you and know what you are trying to do–maybe even make changes with you. We know that’s when people are more likely to be successful. And we know when you are surrounded by other people who are trying to make similar healthy changes, you’re more likely to be successful as well; it can actually be wonderfully contagious,” said Polonsky.

Online, mobile and social media technologies have created communities that simply weren’t possible in 1999 when Polonsky legitimized “diabetes burnout.” No matter where you are or the condition of your local support system, you can access online communities with members, like you, who deal with the disease on daily basis, sometimes struggle to find a sense of hope and want to share their frustrations with someone, like you, who understands.


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