Consequences of High Blood Glucose as a teen

Are there any older type 1’s that had high glucose as a teen that could explain to my 14 year old son what is going to happen to him if he doesn’t get it under control? At 14, he cannot see what he is doing to himself in the future.

I honestly don’t think that’s going to be very effective, as well-intentioned as I’m sure you are in pursuing it. I spent almost 20 years being non-compliant, and I knew the consequences because too many people to count thought scare-tactics would result in behavioral change. Every kid is different, but I think that just makes most diabetic kids angrier because it feels condescending and intrusive. For years and years, all everyone would tell me is how all these terrible things were going to happen to me. Contrary to their intentions, I internalized those negative messages and developed a belief that no matter what I did, I’d end up blind or on dialysis, and I would’ve bet everything I had at age 20 or 25 that I was going to be dead by 30. As I got closer to 30, I believed I’d be dead by 40. So, I don’t think the “This is what’s going to happen to you” approach works… even a little bit. Of course, I can’t speak for all type 1 vets, but I’ve talked to at least a few others who also had similar beliefs for many years and were also non-compliant for a significant amount of time - that they would be dead by 30 or 40 so it didn’t really matter either way, might as well live it up now than be burdened with diabetes care. Trying to reason using that approach with a kid who has yet to develop adult-level reasoning skills isn’t going to work.

I’m now a mental health professional, and have a special interest in clients with diabetes. I’ve done a lot of research on non-compliance, especially in adolescents. I can offer you some ideas for what might be more effective approaches, and hopefully you’ll find something helpful.

Any kind of peer support opportunities will be beneficial. I know of a local hospital in my area that has a teen support group 4 times a year, so if you do some research, maybe you can find something similar in your area. Or be extra proactive, and ask your endocrinologist and CDE why such a group doesn’t exist. Camp is also an indescribably valuable experience. I tell every parent, come hell or high water, do not underestimate its value and do everything within your power to make camp happen.

Diabetics are twice as likely to be depressed, and depression in a diabetic teenager doesn’t necessarily present as typical. So even if you don’t think he’s depressed because “he doesn’t look or act depressed”, it isn’t going to hurt to have him evaluated. Depression is extremely dangerous for a diabetic because most depressed diabetics are less compliant, and there’s a much higher incidence of complications and life-spans are shorter. There’s been a ton of research on it, and it drives me bananas that depression isn’t identified as a complication the way retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy are. Depression can be the difference between getting those more well-known complications or not. Every diabetic should be assessed periodically for depression.

If he’s not depressed, then that obviously good that you’ve ruled that out as a contributing factor. However even if there’s no significant depression, I’ve recommended to lots of people that they get some kind of counseling. If you find a counselor (master’s or doctorate level psychologist, social worker, creative arts therapist, marriage/family therapist or someone with a degree in counseling – not a psychiatrist), don’t just send him as the one with the problem. Diabetes is a family disease. It impacts everyone in some way. You should go into counseling with the attitude that something is not working within your family that’s contributing to his non-compliance, and everyone has to work together to find a way to get back on track with diabetes care. He already feels like the sick one, so sending him to counseling alone gives him a message that it’s his problem and he has to work it out on his own. I always tell people that diabetes in your family is akin to a divorce, a death, a new sibling, a major move – it can be very traumatic and its impact ripples through everyone. I would hope that families who are experiencing any of the aforementioned problems would seek counseling if people in the family were having problems adjusting. Diabetes is no different. By seeing a counselor as a family, you give your son the message that this is a critical issue that cannot be let go, that you’re in it together, that you’re proactive and willing to do what it has to take to solve a complicated problem, that you might also have a problem in that you aren’t sure how to help him or support him and you’re not afraid to ask for help because maybe a professional can help you negotiate what will work best for your family… there are lots of positive messages that can be relayed if you’re willing to reframe how you see seeking counseling as a course of action and a possible means to a solution. I’m an art therapist so I’m admittedly biased, but teens tend to do well in art therapy because they’re generally reluctant to talk and making art is less threatening than talking about problems. Assuming you aren’t an artist, by participating in the art-making process in art therapy, you’ll be making yourself more vulnerable, but that can be beneficial to him in that he’ll see you’re willing to put yourself out there so to speak, he’ll feel less singled out, and he’ll see it as a cooperative endeavor - very important for a parent-teen relationship. You can do your own research on art therapy by going to the website for the American Art Therapy Association. You should also consider getting recommendations for mental health professionals from your endocrinologist or CDE. Hopefully, they’ll know a mental health treatment provider who has some experience working with diabetics, chronic illness and/or non-compliance.

I’m obviously not your therapist and don’t know anything about you and your family other than you’re concerned about your son’s level of compliance. Non-compliance is a very complicated problem that must be approached carefully and from multiple directions. It’s critical to think outside the box. Be willing to try new, creative solutions even if they seem intimidating or unfamiliar.

I would agree with Lee Ann. In my opinion, focusing on complications is not the right approach-- not for a child with diabetes, a teen with diabetes, or an adult with diabetes.

But I think that you are really on to something that it would help your son to talk to OTHER diabetics.

I improved my control substantially when I realized that I wasn’t alone, there are other people like me who understand!

There are a lot of great teens on this site. I would encourage your son just to read their profiles… and maybe that will inspire him to want to chat with them etc. I know that they are a great support to each other! I will encourage some of them to reply to this discussion.

I did not have diabetes as a teenager (diagnosed at 21)-- so I can’t offer more advice. But I can tell you that my diabetes control is a lifestyle choice… focused more on living healthy and taking care of myself. Avoiding complications is hopefully a positive side effect. If I let myself think about complications all the time, I would go crazy.

I hope that you will get more responses from this community! There are many parents here who know how you feel-- it is so tough to be a parent, knowing what is best for your child, but needing them to make the right decisions. And there are many people with diabetes who can definitely relate to what your son is going through!! All the best to you both!

Hi my name is Riley and I’m thirteen. I know your son probably doesn’t want to hear all of the stuff about complications, and he probably already knows about it, but it is a big issue. As the other people that wrote to you said, its not necessarily going to work to keep on reminding him. Ask him if he wants to talk to some other people, because I would be glad to help and I know how hard it is to get your numbers in control. Does he have a page on this site? I think it would help a lot if he did.

Well, I am 14, and do my best to stay as healthly as I can. Leaving your diabetes uncontrolled is the worst possible thing you can do as teen. Bad control early on will lead to horrible things, such as Diabetics foot, eye trouble, and the possibility of lossing an extremity! It makes no sense not to take care of yourself, and to be frank your an idiot not to.

Like Riley said he should try to get in contact with other people his age. I don’t know why we he won’t take care of himself, but if he talks to other people he might realize its a good idea.

Hi, Im Carly and im almost 14 too! (twelve more days, whoo!)
I think that taking care of yourself as a diabetic is VERY important, because if you really think about it, isnt it like smoking?
because your basically harming yourself willing-ly.
its kinda like a slow way of killing yourself, and by not taking care of yourself and having such high blood sugars, you let it happen.
ive heard the horror stories of having feet and toes and stuff chopped off due to complications might sound like something that would never happen to you,
but no one is invincible. :\

I mean, i can see why you would not take care of yourself, and kind of rebel.
being diabetic is not fun, and im sure every person on this website can agree.
but when you check your blood sugar, and take a shot with just the right amount of insulin,
it is soooooo much easier!
if you do well enough, you can get a pump if everything else works out like insurance,
and maybe, (im not sure) but some people even have the CGM (continious glucose monitors) that you rarely ever have to check your sugar if you get it.

if you look at my profile on here, it has my whole philosophy. :slight_smile:
if you ever need someone to talk to, or vent to, we all can relate, so dont hold back!

Talking about future complications might not help so much - as a teenager it is very hard to see that far ahead, and difficult to understand that it really could happen to you.

For me, the thing which forces me to stay as controlled as I can (far from perfect, but I try my best) is just how bad it feels when I’m high and icky. Just the annoyance of having to go to the bathroom and get more water to drink every 10 minutes is enough motivation for me to attempt control.

Having a page on this site, or becoming a member of a forum like the one at is also useful, it sometimes helps just to be able to rant to other people and get support, and realising that he’s not as alone as he feels will probably be helpful to him.

There is also the possibility of a diabetes camp or support group, which are also good apparently.

Good luck to both of you.

Dr. William Polonsky wrote the book Diabetes Burnout. Here’s a link to an interview he did that you might find enlightening.

Lea Ann, i can’t thank you enough for your help and advice.