Why did you decide to go into health psychology with a focus on diabetes?
I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 20 years and have had times of extreme difficulty with not just coping with self-care routines and glycymic control, but the psychological aspects of having diabetes. Feelings of denial, anger and sadness have all been a part of my journey to reach acceptance of my condition. I have had times where despite my best efforts to adhere to treatment regimes proposed by my healthcare professionals, my diabetes has still appeared to me at times to have a mind of its own.
All this has led me to believe that optimal control of diabetes is not just about administering the correct insulin, eating the correct food and monitoring my blood sugars, but the way I view myself as a person and how I view my diabetes as a condition. [The other reason I was so keen to interview Chloe is that I think she is spot on about this and so few people talk about it – Alison]
Ah, so diabetes…it’s all in your head. Discuss.
It would be foolish for anyone to suggest that diabetes (of any type) can be purely controlled by one’s own mind. However, we as humans are not robotic being purely driven by biological mechanisms. Our lives and our diabetes control are a result of an interaction of the biological body, the environment and our thoughts, feelings and personalities. A key example of this is stress. We all encounter situations that cause stress in our everyday lives and we all have a biological response that can cause increase in blood sugars. However, the way we respond and deal with these situations in our mind mediates this interaction between a situation and our biological response.
You’ve done some research into gender differences in diabetes. Obviously you’ll have discovered that women are superior, but other than that what did you learn?
This was specifically in adolescence, though I would be interested to also review the work done in adult diabetics. A prominent part of adolescence is gender identity formation. The review aimed to highlight the particular issues asthmatic and diabetic adolescents face and how they differ amongst males and females. These issues were found to be; social identities, personal feelings of self and representation of illness, talking about their illness with their peers, sport/exercise, diet, diabulimia, treatment regimes, conflict and sense of control. Gender does appear to impact substantially on the experience and management in adolescents with a chronic illness. Interventions and care should have considerations for how boys and girls respond and deal differently with their illness and the impact this can have. [So the research says we should be treating patients as individuals rather than putting them all through the same sheep dip, couldn’t agree more – Alison]
You went all modern and looked at whether text messaging reminders and encouragement to teenage diabetics made any difference. Did it?
Text messaging interventions proposes a way to integrate a diabetic health intervention into current adolescent culture. Studies ;