Diabetes-related events can cause posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes, according to new research published in the Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.1 Researchers said the study’s findings indicate that interventions to prevent or mitigate PTSS should be implemented at the time of diagnosis.
Girl sad on chair due to trauma / fizkes - stock.adobe.com
The prevalence of diabetes has been growing significantly around the globe and in the United States. Over 300000 children under the age of 20 in the US had a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in 2021, according to the CDC.2 PTSS caused by traumatic experiences is known to have a negative impact on glycemic control, but previous research on the topic has never investigated trauma and PTSS caused by diabetes-related events.
- New research in the Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry indicates that diabetes-related events can lead to posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes.
- About 82% of participants reported experiencing at least one form of general trauma, with 22% identifying the most distressing event as related to their diabetes.
- The study underscores the need for interventions to address the potential debilitating effects of repeated emergency room visits for adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes, emphasizing the importance of psychological support alongside medical care.
“Research on pediatric medical trauma has focused on life-threatening illness (eg, cancer, burns), rather than chronic illness such as diabetes,” the authors wrote. “Though limited, literature indicates that being diagnosed and living with diabetes itself, especially experiencing acute diabetes complications, may be experienced as traumatic.”
A team of investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital and Tottori University in Japan conducted a study to explore PTSS arising from diabetes-related events—such as severe symptoms or emergency room visits due to complications—among adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes.
The cross-sectional pilot study collected self-reported measures from 2 questionnaires depending on age from August 2021 through January 2022: the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale for DSM-5, and the Child PTSD Symptom Scale 5. The study cohort included 50 adolescents and young adults ages 14 to 25 years with type 1 diabetes who were treated at a pediatric diabetes clinic within a large hospital and academic medical center.
READ MORE: Exploring Non-Pharmacological Interventions in Adolescents With Type 1 Diabetes
Investigators found that 82% of participants reported experiencing at least 1 form of general trauma, including physical abuse, witnessing violence, or serious injuries. Of those, 22% said the most distressing event they experienced was related to diabetes. Over a quarter of participants exhibited clinically relevant levels of PTSS related to a diabetes event that they experienced.
Additionally, participants who were assigned female at birth or had a higher frequency of visits to the emergency room due to their diabetes had a higher risk developing clinically relevant levels of diabetes-related PTSS.
Study limitations include the small sample size, that adolescents and young adults who did not speak English were not included, and the reliance of self-reported measures. However, the authors noted that their findings have important clinical implications given the large volume of research on the negative health implications of traumatic stress.
“Given the debilitating effects of repeated emergency room visits, interventions to assist adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes with addressing such effects in their daily lives may be essential,” the authors concluded. “Further research is needed to examine diabetes-related PTSS regarding other psychiatric symptoms…and resilience to fully capture the experience of AYA patients with diabetes. Our findings also underscore the need for future research with larger samples for more precise associations between variables, including sex and emergency room visits.”
READ MORE: Diabetes Resource Center
1. Hosoda-Urban T, O’Donnell EH. Diabetes-related posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes: A pilot study. J Acad Consult Liaison Psychiatry. 2024; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaclp.2024.01.003