Psychological Services for Pediatric Diabetes Patients
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that adversely impacts a person’s ability to maintain appropriate blood glucose levels because of their inability to produce a sufficient amount of insulin. Diabetes presents both short and long term physical and psychological complications for children and families. The physical complications are often managed effectively under the care of a diabetes team, which consists of a variety of different health care disciplines.
However, the long-term psychological complications are often inadequately addressed. Likewise, emotional factors are often important issues in a child’s compliance with the demanding medical regimen. Psychologists, especially those trained in health or pediatric psychology, may play a vital role in the adjustment and on-going process of living with diabetes. There is extensive research on the psychological adjustment of children with diabetes and the impact of psychological interventions for these individuals.
Psychological Issues that Children with Diabetes May Face
- Adjustment to Diabetes and the loss of the concept of a “healthy child”
- Anxiety about their future medical health
- Stress related to daily requirements/maintenance (e.g., injections and diet restrictions)
- Peer difficulties and social adjustment
- Frustration and opposition to complying with medical regimen
Goals of Interventions that Psychologists Provide
- Adherence to diabetes treatment regimen. This is the most common reason for psychological referral for children with Diabetes.
- Promote pro-diabetic coping behaviors
- Decrease high-risk health behaviors
- Improve family functioning as it relates to communication and problem solving about diabetes
- Evaluate and treat for anxiety, depression and other psychological factors. Mood and anxiety disorders occur significantly more in patients with diabetes than in the general population.
- Consultations to medical providers on how to incorporate psychological principles into patient care
Psychologists who work with children with Diabetes are sensitive to the unique demands that the disease places on specific age groups. For example, adolescence is a period of “storm and stress” and compliance to diet and insulin injections is often most difficult, because the child is in a struggle to not be perceived as different from their peers. This understanding provides unique ways in which the psychologist can help parents and medical providers understand a child and aid in the process of emotional growth and development.