FROM THE ARCHIVES- TuDiabetes Live interview with Dr. William Polonsky

INTERVIEW from 2014

Dr. Polonsky is CEO and Founder of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, the world’s first organization wholly dedicated to studying and addressing the unmet psychological needs of people with diabetes. He is also Associate Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego. Dr. Polonsky received his PhD in clinical psychology from Yale University and has served as Senior Psychologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Chairman of the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators.

A licensed clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, he has served on the editorial boards of Diabetes Care, Diabetes Forecast, Clinical Diabetes, Diabetes Self-
Management and Diabetes Health. In addition to his many diabetes-related professional publications, he is authored several books for the lay audience (e.g., Diabetes Burnout: What to Do When You Can’t Take it Anymore) and co-edited several others for health care professionals (e.g., A CORE Curriculum for Diabetes Education).


Thanks for resurfacing this video, @Mila. Dr. Polonsky is a real gem in the diabetes community. He’s credited with saying, “Well-controlled diabetes is the leading cause of nothing!”

Here’s a 2016 interview published in diaTribe.

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So very cool to see this video again. And it came at a good time for me. My last 2 posts about the things I hate and the things I love about my diabetes, has pushed my into that thinking, hating, struggling, accepting, avoiding, despising, tolerating (the list goes on and on) point in my life. At one point Dr.P says diabetes can run in cycles and mine does. I have great stretches of time and some not so great. And I am currently not in a bad stretch but it sure could be better.

I was very very fortunate to take a couple workshops with the tea at BDI and some depression workshops. And that is where my burnout and depression came to light and I did finally find a way out of that big dark black hole.

I did learn that my diabetes helped feed my core beliefs. My core beliefs that have formed my mental well being for years. My biggest one is I am not good enough. And my daily dealings with my diabetes back in the 70’s and 80’s feed that every darn day. Nothing I did worked they way it was suppose to and everything I tried didn’t work. Which lead to my other main belief, I am a failure. And wow does diabetes feed that one.

Diabetes can be so hard on ones mental well being. And when blood testing came out, I took everyone of those results as another reinforcement of my core belief, not good enough and a failure. Every doctor visit feed those beliefs. Every low feed those beliefs. Every time my diabetes caused an issue at a family or work event, it feed those beliefs.

I was so very lucky and thrilled to finally find medical professionals who see diabetes as more a mental disease instead of a metabolic disease.
Just wanted to say, that if you get a chance to listen to him of Dr. Guzman talk, listen. Or if you have the chance to do a clinical trial with some experts in this field or read their books or clinical papers. They are very enlightening. And thanks @Terry4 and @Mila for pulling this up again. It will never go away.


Your post really hits home, @Sally7. It’s taken me a long time living with T1D to realize that the expectations created by professional diabetes medical providers can damage your mental health. This compounds the problem of managing well a difficult metabolic disorder.

I don’t fully fault the medical providers but their blind spot regarding the psychological/emotional aspects does materially impact our health. Too many (not all!) providers off-load their personal responsibility by seeing us as “non-compliant” with their treatment plan. They fail to see that their ideal treatment does not work for everyone and the individual variations most of us observe. They don’t get the joke, “the definition of diabetes insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting the same results!”

Now I know there are enlightened and sensitive medical practitioners who see their patients as both physical and psychological beings. Unfortunately, too many don’t understand our needs to be treated holistically.

Congrats on persisting to bring your diabetes treatments into a more realistic sense of expectations. It’s been my overall experience that the biggest treatment breakthroughs only came to me due to my own experimentation, persistence, and quest for my diabetes reality.

I think it’s tough for our medical providers to gain empathic insight since they don’t personally deal with diabetes all day every day. The do need to be aware, however, of what they don’t know! They also need to respect the knowledge, experience and truth their patients hold. I fear they see us more as subjects that need the doctor’s sensibility impressed upon them. The truth of the matter does exist but it lies somewhere between the doctor and patient reality. Bridging that gap is the challenge.

We are all good enough! No diabetes test will ever be the measuring stick of our worth as human beings. That’s an insidious trap you fell into Sally and I’m glad you worked your way out. I just wish there were more and better recognition of the entire package of problems we face. There are likely many more people who never resolved the conditions that you did.

Thanks for an articulate insight into this important aspect of managing diabetes well!

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Dr. Polonsky seems to be a very kind man. I was clinically depressed from the ages of 22 until 34. I don’t really know how much of it was related to being dx with type 1 at 8 yrs of age because the depression was
genetic. I am sure though that being over protected as a child did not help me in the long run. Plus I thought I would die at an early age and was rather scared of living.

Given the choice of which illness I would rather have type 1 diabetes wins hands down.

60 of diabetes has just made me a very strong person. I would have never lived through 60 yrs of clinical depression.

Thinking about what Dr. Polonsky had to say, I would have to say that I keep right on top of my diabetes always. Taking a vacation from it once a week, would screw up my numbers for the following week. It just isn’t worth it to me. I would never be able to get off the rollercoaster and that would really frustrate me. I lived that way for years, and maybe it is my age, but forgetting my diabetes for a day holds no appeal. This doesn’t mean that I am pleased to have diabetes, because I am definitely not. I still have a wonderful life even with it though.

The question I have been asked which annoys me is, “you don’t have a pump so your diabetes must not be so bad.” I figure that the person is lacking education about diabetes, and quickly correct them. People don’t usually mean to be mean.

I don’t remember a doctor judging me about my control of this illness except to tell me my A1c is too low. I have had very little input about my diabetes from doctors over the years.

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