Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD
What is OCDOCD SubtypesFear of Diabetes

Fear of Diabetes

5 min read
Rosa Pacheco Uscanga, LPC, NCC

Possibly related to:

What is Diabetes OCD?

There are countless ways OCD can present itself. It tends to attach itself to what you care about most. This could be your family, friends, intimate relationships, pets, career, moral compass, ability to communicate, and even your health. This is how OCD takes power over someone’s life. If you value and care about your health and wellbeing, then that will likely be one subject that OCD attacks. 

OCD takes advantage of an intolerance for uncertainty. It causes you to demand 100% certainty about the doubts and what-ifs it causes. The problem is that your search for certainty only feeds the doubt that comes with OCD and reinforces the fear around it. The more you seek the answer the more questions will arise. 

In the Health Concern subtype of OCD, those doubts will be about your health. There are countless chronic health conditions that one may obsess about. It can be heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and so on. Someone with diabetes OCD would have fear that they have or could develop this chronic (long-lasting) health condition and that it could potentially ruin their life.

Diabetes OCD – Common Obsessions

  • What if I have diabetes and don’t know it?
  • What if I become a diabetic? 
  • What if I die from diabetes? 
  • What if diabetes runs in my family? 
  • What if I get diabetes and lose my eyesight? 
  • What if I get diabetes and lose my limbs?
  • What if I pee alot because I have diabetes? 
  • What if I am losing weight because I have diabetes? 
  • What if my fingers and feet begin to tingle? Does that mean I have diabetes? 

Common Triggers

People with OCD fear of diabetes may be triggered by hearing, seeing or thinking about diabetes, or by media dealing with dietary or health issues generally.   

Triggers for people with diabetes OCD include:

  • People talking about diabetes
  • Seeing a glucose monitor 
  • Thinking about symptoms of diabetes 
  • Eating certain foods
  • Using the bathroom, often at night 
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Tingly fingers and feet 
  • Losing weight 
  • Media about health concerns

How can I tell if it’s OCD fear of diabetes, and not a real chronic (long-lasting) health condition?

People with this manifestation of OCD will obsess over “what-ifs” about diabetes, even if there is no evidence of it. For example, imagine that you had blood work done and your doctor tells you that you are healthy. Still, the doubt that you might actually have diabetes and this doctor made a mistake has left you feeling anxious and distressed. If you haven’t gotten any confirmation from a medical professional but you did confirm possible signs when searching online, then OCD can cause you to find more certainty in the online source. 

We have millions of thoughts that run through our mind on a day to day basis. OCD will cling to some specific thoughts, likely about things that are important to you, and attach meaning to them, even if there is little or no reason to.

Common Compulsions

When people with diabetes fears as part of OCD experience intrusive thoughts, images, feelings, or urges that cause distress, they may make repeated attempts to ignore, push them out of their mind, fix, or neutralize them. These behaviors can be performed mentally or physically. 

These ways of responding are done repetitively in response to obsessive thoughts and fears. You might feel obligated to engage in these physical compulsions or mental rituals because they provide a short sense of relief from anxiety, discomfort or distress. 

Common compulsions performed mentally or physically by people with fear of diabetes include:

  • Researching symptoms and causes 
  • Seeking reassurance from loved ones
  • Seeking reassurance from various doctors, nurses, people in the medical field 
  • Self-reassurance 
  • Checking for body sensations/symptoms
  • Checking glucose levels 
  • Avoiding certain foods
  • Avoiding media about health issues

How to treat fear of diabetes

Obsessions and compulsions in fear of diabetes can be debilitating, but it is highly treatable. Starting exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy can help you increase your tolerance of uncertainty and manage your anxiety around those intrusive thoughts and fears. In ERP, you engage in exposures, where you and your therapist gradually trigger your obsessive thoughts and fears, and you are guided in response prevention as you resist doing compulsions to resolve your uncertainty and anxiety. 

The goal of ERP is not to get rid of the anxiety your thoughts create or to accept the thoughts as true. The goal is to learn to tolerate them and habituate to the discomfort you feel with the passage of time. If you read this far and feel that you’re experiencing Health OCD, then ERP is the treatment you need. An OCD therapist trained in ERP will understand how hopeless and helpless you might feel. You can start ERP and work with a therapist that can help you get time and energy back to live the life you deserve and want.  Fear of schizophrenia OCD can be debilitating, but it is highly treatable. By doing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy with an OCD specialist, you can learn to manage OCD and live free from constant fear.

You will start by identifying your thoughts and triggers and ranking them by the level of anxiety they cause. You’ll also identify any safety-seeking or compulsive behaviors you are using in an attempt to reduce your distress or resolve your fears. The compulsions might involve reviewing current and past behaviors, seeking reassurance from others and/or self, researching about various psychotic disorders, seeking multiple medical assessments and opinions, or avoiding situations and media that might trigger the thoughts and feelings. 

As you build an awareness of these factors, you will then build your treatment plan and work your way up your ladder of fears, starting with triggers that cause lower levels of distress to the higher levels. You will practice purposely triggering yourself to evoke various levels of distress, and learn to lean into the anxiety without trying to alleviate it by engaging in compulsions. 

Instead, you will learn to sit with uncertainty, possibly telling yourself non-engagement messages like “maybe I am, or maybe I’m not.” This process will allow you to habituate to the distress and uncertainty you feel, which will make it easier in the future to manage the distress whenever it comes in the future. You will retrain your brain that you are able to tolerate this uncertainty, which then results in a decrease in the distress you feel when the thoughts come up. In time, your thoughts and worries may feel like little more than background noise.

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp, M.A., LCPC, has specialized in the treatment of OCD since 2011. He is a former clinical supervisor for The Center for Anxiety and OCD at AMITA Behavioral Health Hospital in Illinois, and is currently the Regional Clinical Director for NOCD.

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