Dr Rupali Bhoye talks about stigma around diabetes

Myths we need to break

Dr Rupali Bhoye talks about stigma around diabetes

Stigma is an unfortunate reality in several medical conditions, including diabetes. Stigma is negative attitudes, judgment, discrimination, or prejudice against someone because of diabetes. More than half of the patients with diabetes experience stigma.

The most common stigma in diabetes is – “this person has diabetes because he eats unhealthy food and does not exercise.” The stigma of eating and less activity is more so in overweight or obese individuals. These are not the primary reasons for diabetes, they are just the triggers to diabetes, and inherent traits like genetic susceptibility are more a reason. 

How does stigma affect?

Stigma has a harmful impact on psychology. It may simply reduce self-esteem or may even cause major problems like depression. Besides, stigma can impact the self-care of diabetes. Stigmatized people may hesitate to do important self-care activities such as injecting insulin, checking blood sugar levels, wearing diabetes devices, or even seeking treatment. A stigamtized person will find diabetes care an uphill task and may lose motivation to take good care of it. Therefore, it is essential to tackle stigma.

Tackling stigma

There are two stigmas – internal stigma and external stigma. Internal stigma is the stigma of diabetes patients towards themselves. It is essential to overcome this stigma first. The best tool to overcome this is to accept the diagnosis and educate yourself as much as you can about diabetes. It helps overcome all misconceptions about diabetes and makes you understand how necessary the treatment is to control blood sugar and prevent complications. Replacing negative feelings with positive feelings and reassuring yourself is extremely important. To fight external stigma, the stigma forced upon you by others, try to educate those people and try to make them empathetic and helpful in your situation.

If you know someone who has diabetes, be empathetic and helpful. Avoid calling someone a ‘diabetic’; instead, say ‘person with diabetes.’ Managing diabetes is a full-time job; support the person as much as possible – support is critical to care. Many people with diabetes, despite all the efforts, may continue to have poor diabetes control. It is not their fault, and those patients surely need empathy.

Stigma is prevalent in diabetes, as in other conditions. Acceptance, education, and empathy are required towards the self or others. After all, diabetes does not define a person; it is just an unfortunate diagnosis that needs adjustments and treatment. Be kind to yourself if you have diabetes; otherwise, be empathetic and supportive of a diabetes patient.


  1. Beverly EA, Guseman EH, Jensen LL, et al. Reducing the Stigma of Diabetes in Medical Education: A Contact-Based Educational Approach. Clin Diabetes. 2019 Apr;37(2):108-115.
  2. Liu NF, Brown AS, Folias AE, et al. Stigma in People With Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes. Clin Diabetes. 2017 Jan;35(1):27-34.
  3. CDC.

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