Data Sharing Burnout
Your meter reveals your blood glucose level. Your pump tells you how much insulin you're dosing. And your continuous glucose monitor relays whether your glucose is rising or falling—and how fast.
For some people, the constant stream of data is a major drawback, says Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE, a psychologist and founder and director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health in San Diego.
Heyman, who has type 1 diabetes, says that an all-access pass to glucose data can lead a person with diabetes or a caregiver to become obsessed with the numbers. “Diabetes is a data-driven disease. That includes blood sugar numbers as an outcome, but also food and medication and exercise and stress,” he says. “It can certainly cause anxiety. I see a lot of patients with anxiety around their numbers and the trends that they have.”
What’s more, Heyman adds, constant monitoring can take up a lot of time and energy. “It impacts people’s ability to interact with the world,” he says. All of that can increase a person’s chances of experiencing diabetes burnout, a feeling of apathy that can happen to anyone who is inundated by the constant care their diabetes requires.
With CGMs and data-sharing devices, people with diabetes and their caregivers can even develop alarm burnout, particularly if they have set their blood glucose goals very tightly. “[If] your alarms are constantly going to be going off, in some ways they become a little less meaningful,” Heyman says. “It’s also tiresome for spouses or bed partners, with alarms going off, if the person with diabetes doesn’t or isn’t willing to wake up with the alarm. That can cause a lot of stress in the relationship, especially in terms of becoming independent.”
Constant reminders of blood glucose can lead to dangerous overcorrections, says George Grunberger, MD, FACP, FACE, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. People obsessed with monitoring their glucose readings may take action for every number they see, rather than when they truly need to treat for a high or low. “Patients wind up in the ER because they keep looking at every up arrow and [then] bolus,” he says. “[I’m concerned about] these decisions, which the patients might make without realizing the consequences.”
Read more about the psychology of diabetes data sharing.