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Putting Your Worries Into Words

It’s been a while since you’ve seen your friend, and you notice there’s something different about her—but, not in a good way. She takes frequent trips to the bathroom, has lost some weight and says she’s been overly tired lately.

Living with diabetes has heightened your sensitivity to this disease, and your friend—let’s call her Brigitte—is showing symptoms that seem sadly familiar.

How do you tell her you think she might have diabetes? You obviously have good intentions, but be careful: you could quickly find yourself in a minefield.

Think before you speak. Diabetes is a touchy subject that can arouse fear, which is why it’s important to be tactful. For example, avoid statements like, “You clearly have diabetes.” On one hand, you’re not sure, and on the other hand, Brigitte may not react well.

Take the right approach. Broach the subject gently by asking Brigitte how she’s feeling. Mention that you’ve noticed such and such changes in her, without bringing up diabetes yet. If Brigitte says she doesn’t know where this is coming from, you could say that she seems to have symptoms of diabetes. Be prepared to describe them, from your point of view, and emphasize that it’s easy to get a diagnosis. Be a good listener: answer Brigitte’s questions, offer her support and change the subject if she says she doesn’t want to keep discussing it.

Don’t play doctor. It’s not up to you to make a diagnosis. Furthermore, just because you’ve experienced symptoms similar to Brigitte’s doesn’t necessarily mean she has diabetes. Likewise, there’s no need to list all the risks and complications of the disease; hearing about neuropathy or hyperglycemia will only cause your friend distress.

In short, speak from personal experience to express your concerns and encourage Brigitte to see a doctor, or at least consider that she may have diabetes. That is never an easy idea to swallow, so be empathetic without becoming condescending. Above all, refrain from commenting on Brigitte’s lifestyle, even though you know that it can trigger the disease or accelerate its progression.

Ask yourself: how would you like to be spoken to in a similar situation?

References:
Roche, “How to Say, "I Think You Have Diabetes"”: http://www.accu-chekdiabeteslink.com/how-to-say-i-think-you-have-diabetes.html. Accessed February 15, 2016.
WebMD, “When Someone You Love Has Diabetes”: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/helping-a-loved-one-cope-with-diabetes. Accessed February 15, 2016.

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