Don't Feel Like a Failure If You Need Insulin

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If you’ve been managing type 2 diabetes with diet, exercise, and oral or injectable medications, you might be surprised when your doctor recommends switching to or adding insulin. You’ve worked so hard to control your blood glucose. How could you have failed so miserably?

You didn’t. To the contrary, starting insulin as soon as you need it is the mark of a successful diabetes manager. It shows that you and your doctor are staying on top of the ever-changing conditions inside your body. Diabetes evolves with time. Even people who follow their diabetes care plan sometimes need insulin eventually.

Mealtime Insulin: Keep Positive, Stay Motivated

If you’re at that point, don’t think of insulin as a last resort. Instead, think of it as just another step in your diabetes journey. You might even find that the step is easier than you expected, thanks to current insulin types and injection methods.

How Feelings of Failure Can Affect Your Health

Blaming yourself for needing insulin doesn’t just hurt your confidence. It can also harm your health if negative feelings make you avoid treatment. Researchers have found that about one-third of type 2 diabetes patients with a new prescription for insulin either never fill it or never get the first refill. Those who say they feel like a failure for needing insulin are more likely to be in this group.

If you’re feeling like you must have done something wrong, remind yourself that diabetes naturally changes with time. Insulin is just another option for fine-tuning your treatment as your condition evolves. Over the long haul, better diabetes control reduces your risk of developing serious health problems, including eye, kidney, and nerve damage.

Becoming an Insulin Success Story

Don’t let feelings of self-blame or denial hold you back from being as healthy as possible. If your doctor has recommended starting insulin, learn more about what that entails. Many people with type 2 diabetes require just one daily dose of long-acting insulin, like insulin detemir (Levemir) or insulin glargine (Lantus). Some diabetics benefit from a short-acting mealtime insulin taken before they eat, like insulin aspart (NovoLog), insulin lispro (Humalog), or insulin glulisine (Apidra).

If you’re worried that injections will be painful or difficult, discuss those concerns with your doctor or diabetes educator. Just seeing the thinness of the needles may help ease your mind. Some people use hypodermics, but there are other injection options. For example, insulin pens are pen-shaped devices that make injecting yourself easier.

Work with your doctor to find an insulin routine that controls your blood glucose, boosts your well-being, and fits into your lifestyle. Know how and when to give yourself insulin and what to do if problems occur. Then use your insulin as directed every day. Rather than feeling like a failure, you can congratulate yourself on making another successful transition in your diabetes journey!

Key Takeaways:

  • Even people who follow their diabetes care plan sometimes need insulin.

  • Starting insulin as soon as you need it is the mark of a successful diabetes manager. It shows that you and your doctor are monitoring the evolving conditions inside your body.

  • Talk with your doctor or diabetes educator if you’re worried about taking insulin. Many people need just one or two injections a day, and there are several methods available.

  • If negative feelings make you avoid treatment, you could harm your health.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Oct 12

  1. Karter AJ, et al. Barriers to insulin initiation: the Translating Research Into Action for Diabetes Insulin Starts project. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(4):733-5.

  2. Petznick AM. Identifying and addressing barriers to insulin acceptance and adherence in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2013;113(4)(suppl. 2):S6-S16.

  3. Spollett GR. Insulin initiation in type 2 diabetes: what are the treatment regimen options and how can we best help patients feel empowered? Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 2012;24:249-59.

  4. Staying healthy with diabetes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 7, 2014.

  5. Insulin routines, American Diabetes Association, June 7, 2013.

  6. Treatment options for diabetes. Endocrine Society, May 2013.

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