A study conducted in Malaysia has concluded that talking through stress can help alleviate anxiety related to type 2 diabetes.

The study, titled Value-Based Emotion-Cognition-Focused Educational Program to Reduce Diabetes Distress in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes (VEMOFIT), was spearheaded by Boon-How Chew, MD, from the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, Utrecht, the Netherlands, and the University Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia.

The findings show that “giving at least two sessions of extra attention to an individual’s health is equally effective compared with the theory-based and more expensive, structured VEMOFIT program.”

Dr. Chew highlighted the importance of diabetes-related distress (DRD) as a feature of type 2 diabetes, and said “tackling it is associated with improvements in psychological well-being, health-related quality of life, and general self-care.”

About Diabetes-Related Distress

In another study Dr. Chew co-authored, The reliability and validity of the Malay version 17-item Diabetes Distress Scale, he defines DRD as “patient’s concerns about diabetes mellitus, its management, need of support, emotional burden, and access to healthcare.”

The majority of concerns from participants in the study centered around hypoglycemia, worsening disease, insulin injection, and that diabetes was hindering them from their normal activities and stable quality of life.

“Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) patients with emotional distress (DRD and depression) might not be capable of adequate self-care, leading to poor glycemic control and increased morbidity and mortality,” he writes.

Chew also mentions the importance of measuring DRD, as it is a “milder and more common emotional disorder that has significant effects on self-management.”

Untreated psychological disorders such as stress and distress may lead to cardiovascular complications, depression and cognitive decline, which would aggravate the vicious cycles of self-care ability.

Origins of Talk Therapy

Originating in the late 1800s, talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, was ushered into the Western public sphere by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Talk therapy is as concerned with working toward solutions as it is with merely discussing problems.

Psychotherapy can help you:

  • Understand your illness
  • Define and reach wellness goals
  • Overcome fears or insecurities
  • Cope with stress
  • Make sense of past traumatic experiences
  • Identify triggers that may worsen your symptoms
  • Improve relationships with family and friends

In January 2017, Forbes examined a study in Translational Psychiatry, suggesting that treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) create structural changes in the brain after as little as six months.

“In particular, there was more neural connectivity [in the CBT group] between the amygdala, which governs fear and emotion in the brain, and areas in the prefrontal cortex that govern higher-order thinking and executive function,” Forbes reported.

A 2015 study carried out by researchers from the University of North Carolina, RTI International and Danube University, examined the effects of antidepressants and CBT, respectively, on over 1,500 patients. The results showed that CBT was as effective as prescription medication, and without the side effects to contend with.

Reach Out and Talk

Medscape recently reported on Dr. Chew’s study, saying the findings “show that simple discussion around emotions  — as was used in the control group in this study — was as effective as a more complex and expensive educational program in this population.”

The key words here are “simple discussion.” The effect we get from speaking to a medical professional about an illness we experience is similar to talking through something with a close friend. “Counseling” and “therapy” might still be taboo for some people, but in their purest form, they are the simplest necessities and solutions to someone who needs to reach out and might not know how to.

Talking helps. Any kind of mental or emotional disorder may not be immediately visible, but it is still a wound. A step toward maintaining mental wellness is a step in the right direction, especially if it assists with the ongoing struggles of physical illness.

We encourage everyone to reach out to someone who could help, as no problem is too small, especially when combined with physical illness.