Objective: The psychological dimension of hyperglycemia is poorly investigated. This study explored how individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) experienced and responded psychologically to hyperglycemia.

Method: From a larger study investigating T2D and work life we purposely selected 7 individual interviews eligible for Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Interviews providing rich and detailed data regarding the subjective experience of hyperglycemia were included. Participants were recruited from a Danish diabetes clinic and had at least 2 years duration of T2D and minimum 1 documented complication. Two researchers independently analyzed each individual case. Contradictions and variations of the analyses were then compared at three levels of analysis: Experiential, linguistic and interpretative. Superordinate themes were developed, if the essence of themes were generalizable across accounts.

Results: Three superordinate themes emerged: Theme 1 ’High blood sugar shuts the body down’. Experiences attributed to hyperglycemia were exemplified by body-machine metaphors and conceptualized as recognizable signs of illness inflicting a complete loss of energy, motivation and willpower. Theme 2 ’Cognitive reactions: High blood sugar is my own fault’. The causes of high blood sugar were ascribed negative personality characteristics or poor self-care abilities and threatened the conception of self. Theme 3 ’Emotional distress’. The cognitive reactions triggered a wide range of distressing emotions; mainly shame, guilt and sadness.

Conclusion: These results are the first to document the cognitive and emotional responses to hyperglycemia and can potentially inform psychological interventions targeting people with T2D. However, IPA is an idiographic approach generating theory from few homogenous cases and further studies are needed to generalize beyond the individual level.


M.A. Nexo: None. B. Cleal: None. I. Willaing: None.

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