Diabetes type 1

Friends and relationships

Friends and close relationships are vitally important to most young people - diabetic or not. Those we talked to said they wanted to be thought of as just the same as other people, but they also realised that they might well need their friends to look out for them - particularly if they had a hypo. Overwhelmingly young people told us that they didn't want diabetes to be a barrier between them and their friends, and most said their friends were supportive.

Several young people said that coping with changes in their levels and trying to be extra careful about injections and food could make them seem over-cautious to their friends. Being seen as different by other children had been a problem for one girl who said she had been bullied at secondary school.
People who were diagnosed with diabetes when they were children said that they relied on their parents to make decisions for them about whether they could go out with friends. Once they were confident enough to inject themselves, their social lives and friendships often improved because they were more independent.
Friendship could be tested when young people left home and moved into a house with friends who saw them having injections and became more aware of their diabetes. Some said their friends were laid back and completely accepted everything about their diabetes - including insulin in the fridge and injections at the dinner table - but others had found it had upset some friends to see them inject in public. Several people said they used to lock themselves in the school/university toilets to inject.
No one said that they had found it difficult to make friends or have relationships because they were diabetic, and everyone we talked to who had had a serious relationship said they had been completely honest about their diabetes and that their boy/girl friend accepted the fact and understood. Some felt that if a new girl/boy friend couldn't accept them as they were, s/he wasn't worth going out with anywayA 17 year old said that being diabetic hadn't affected his chances of getting girlfriends and had made almost no difference to his sex life.
Some young people have made it their ‘mission’ to tell others about the differences between type1 and type 2 diabetes in an effort to educate and to get rid of misconceptions about type 1 diabetes.
Choosing not to tell people about diabetes was seen by some people as a good way of avoiding making it into a big deal. Some young people felt that their friends knew very little about diabetes and tended to associate it with eating too many sweets in childhood. Some young people said they usually avoided talking about diabetes when they met someone new - partly because it was boring for other people, partly because it was so complicated to explain. Others made a point of telling their friends everything there was to know about their diabetes and liked helping educate them.

Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated April 2010.


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