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Question:

From Alabama, USA:

My 15 year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago. For about the past six months she has lost all interest in monitoring her blood sugar levels. She has become a risk taker of great proportion. I guess the best word to describe her is "free-spirit". She loves life and says that she lives everyday like it were her last. She takes her insulin injections regularly but doesn't seem to worry at all if they are late. She is a varsity cheerleader and gets plenty of exercise.

My concern is the long term effects of this disease and how to get a teenager to realize what they could be doing to themselves. I also wonder if the risk taking is common behavior in teenagers. She was very ill when she was diagnosed and actually feels that she beat death.

Answer:

The "risk taking" behavior you describe is common in teenagers with diabetes. In my own practice, I discovered many teens felt that they had better "live large" while they were young because diabetes was waiting to impair them later on in life. This belief, however it began, directed much of the risky behavior.

So my challenge was to implant a new belief, that the impact of diabetes in adulthood could be altered by behavior in adolescence. What a person does is cumulative: good decisions now reap better outcomes later.

At 15, this young person cares more about what peers think than what parents think. It is not unusual for there to be a tossing off of strict regimens at this age. However, it becomes increasingly important to keep the lines of communication open and honest. Step forward and begin the dialogue; not with fear, but with love.

CMB

Additional comments from Lois Schmidt Finney, diabetes dietitian:

Also, please suggest a support group for her. As parents, we often can not convey our concern both for their current health and future health (need to take care of themselves now), but others closer to her age can do so and often times, very effectively.

LSF

Original posting 19 Jan 1999
Posted to Behavior

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:02
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