Motivation in diabetes

Motivation in diabetes

Metabolic control of diabetes is influenced not only by the treatment method and lifestyle changes, but also by the patient’s active involvement in the treatment. Even the most advanced technology, the best pharmacological preparations and a well-chosen, personalized diet will not control diabetes without the patient’s will and commitment. That is why MOTIVATION is one of the crucial parts of everyday life with diabetes.

Where to look for it?

How to find it?

What does it really mean?

The answers to these and other questions can be found below.

Every diabetic knows that motivation is extremely important in treatment. Staying motivated all the time is a difficult task for many people. Apart from diabetes, each patient leads a regular life and therefore faces everyday problems, such as work, parental responsibilities, school, studies, or relationships with others. Sometimes various difficulties or individual beliefs about the disease make it difficult to actively engage in its treatment. However, despite these problems or temporary failures, it is a good idea to perceive diabetes as a challenge and not focus on what cannot be done or what is missing, but on what I already have, what I have managed to change so far, and what I can influence.

What is motivation?

According to its psychological definition, the term “motivation” is used to describe any mechanisms responsible for triggering (1), directing (2), maintaining (3) and completing (4) an action. This means that it is not enough to take the first step and you still need to choose the right direction and keep up the pace. It is emphasized that motivation is also purposeful, even if this purpose is not fully realized and helps to change a specific state. In other words, motivation works when we have a particular goal, even when we are not aware of it.

Authors of numerous studies on the subject also emphasize one more factor. In order to raise the level of motivation for treatment, it is important to have a sense of influence on the course of treatment and the freedom of choice in making decisions concerning it. Lifestyle changes should include simple, small steps, and effects that are visible after a short period of time as this helps to increase motivation instead of waiting for burnout.

Unfortunately, you don’t get motivation along with all the medications and prescriptions in the hospital or during a visit to a diabetes clinic. Motivation is a process and you have to devote some time and energy to be able to develop it yourself. The reasons to deal with the disease may be external or internal. External stimuli are, for example, orders from a doctor, pressure from relatives, or a cash prize for good results. Undeniably, this type of motivation works and is effective in many situations, but it doesn’t usually last long. External stimuli are usually characterized by a relatively high potency and that’s why people usually begin the fight straight after their visit to a doctor. However, these same stimuli quickly pass and, unfortunately, we do not keep the new habits for a long time.

What is motivation?

Internal motivation is just the opposite and is associated with, for example, internal concern for one’s own health, fear of complications or the desire to improve physical condition or well-being. Internal motives are not so intense but they last longer, which means that they are necessary to make a permanent change in lifestyle.

It is worth mentioning that motivation can also be positive (pursuit of pleasure) or negative (avoiding unpleasant situations). Diabetics, when looking for motivation for treatment, often focus mainly on the negative option and simply want to avoid chronic diabetic complications. Motivating yourself to prevent long-term health consequences works but, just like external motivation, only for a short time. Motivating yourself only with fear can actually become unpleasant in the long run.

That is why it is worth remembering that when you work on your motivation for treatment, you should consider what benefits you may get and what you can gain by changing your habits. When looking for the benefits of well-controlled diabetes, make sure you find both short-term ones achievable here and now as well as those that are long-term, i.e. you will be able to see them in a few years. (2).

Answering a few important questions will help you find your own motivation:

Why do I want to undergo treatment?

What is going to happen if I don’t change anything now?

What is the smallest thing that I can start with?


  1. Young-Hyman D., deGroot M., Hill-Briggs F. i wsp., Psychosocial care for people with diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 2016; 39; 2126-2140.
  2. Franken, R. E. Human motivation. Pacific Grove, 2006, Calif: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.
Agata Juruć cukrzyca
AUTHOR Agata Juruć


Senior lecturer, psychologist, dietitian and coach. Co-author of the book about diabetes and scientific publications around health psychology, psychological aspects of diabetes, overweight and obesity. Speaker at plenty of national and international conferences.

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