Parent of type 1 diabetic with severe separation anxiety

HI, I am new here and I am a parent of an 11 year old boy who was diagnosed 3 years ago.....For the past 2 years he has developed  severe separation anxiety.  He fears that if he isn't with his dad or I ...we could die and he would be left to manage his diabetes alone. (He currently counts his own carbs, tests, and gives his own shots but doesn't draw his own insulin yet..)  His fears are getting increasingly worse and limiting him and us more and more.  Has anyone else dealt with something like this? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  We have tried a few therapists and tried to teach him breathing and calming techniques but nothing seems to work. I do not want to have to medicate him. He is a very outgoing, smart and athletic boy....I am at a loss as to how to help him get through these panic attacks.  

Sorry your son is having to go through this.  It really does sound like more of an anxiety issue, than a diabetes issue.  Different personalities deal with the stresses and management of diabetes differently. 

Has your son ever gone to a diabetic summer camp?  Ask his counselor or someone else who knows him well if this would be a good idea. 

I give this advice for a variety of reasons.  First, I worked as a camp counselor while in college and had several campers each summer who had anxiety issues.  They usually were able to stay at camp and it was a big confidence builder to confront  the fear head on.  It doesn't work for every child, but as long as you warn the camp ahead of time and are ready to pick your son up early if he can't handle it, why not try?  I also am married to someone who struggles with OCD.  The only thing that's really helped him is exposure therapy... experiencing this "worst case scenerio" and living through it.  I also speak as a someone who was a diabetic kid.  Going to camp (I started when I was 7) was a wonderful experience that helped me gain confidence in handling my own diabetes and I got to meet a bunch of other diabetic kids; and my mom knew I was in the safest environment possible since there were volunteer doctors and nurses evaluating my blood tests and making recommendations on insulin levels. 

I hope you find something that helps.  Take care.  -Jenna

How does he do at school?

I would keep going down the route of therapy trying to get at what the root of the anxiety. It seems unusual to get fixated on the sudden death thing, but very smart kids more easily go down the 'what if' road because they do think through all the consequences - of which some are scary!  Is he afraid that no one else knows how to care for him and his D?

I would make sure you have trained other people how to care for him and that he is aware of this too. Whether grandparents or aunts, uncles, and/or especially whomever you have designated to be his guardian in case something ever did happen. He can help show them how to do things, so that he experiences their learning it. (Then he has to KNOW that they learned.) Then I'd take baby steps of leaving him with them for short periods of time and increasing to longer.

As Jenna suggested, camp would also be a great thing. It would be a safe environment to be on his own.

Jenna's suggestion about attending diabetes summer camp is an excellent idea.  I attended a camp when I was 12 years old and it was agreat experience.  I grew up in a very small town and didn't know any other T1s until I went to camp.  It made me feel like I wasn't alone or different.  It also improved my self confidence with taking care of myself.



same here. they were fun. my health right now is shot. but hopefully will repair whats broken. lol. anyhoo the summer camps are great. most states if not all of them, have camps


Can you switch to the pen for injections?  Very easy for him to learn to dial in the correct dosages.  This may be easier to learn than the syringes.  If he gains confidence in this area it may help.  The anxiety comes partly from you and your husband - kids feed off of our own insecurities.  You need to be strong, encouraging and supportive (I'm sure you are already doing this) even more since he is having issues.  He may need another adult to lean on so he feels his support base is larger than you and your husband.  Hugs help too!  Best wishes.

Thank you everyone for your advice - it is very much appreciated.

I've been a type 1 diabetic since the age of 5 (I'm 28 now).  I had major separation anxiety from my parents, especially my mother since she's the one who gave me my shots.  My parents sent me to diabetes camp when I was 10 or 11 and it was one of the worst experiences in my life.  I refused to leave my room or talk to anyone. I was sent home after 2 or 3 days.  I hated the idea of being grouped with people just because we have the same disease.  I never felt overly different from other children around me, even though I couldn't each birthday cake or candy at school.


What turned it around for me was learning to take my own shots, which I started to do in 5th grade.  I felt much more comfortable when I felt more in control of my own life.  Learning to give myself shots was quite an experience, especially for my mother who let me practice on her.  It was extremely stressful and I didn't want to do it at first, but I was so glad afterwords. The want to spend time on my own grew from there.


I hope this is somewhat helpful.

u can always try family camps.. in some cities they have get togethers with type one diabetics.. maybe if he were to meet other diabetics and see how they cope it could help.. i would suggest camp where they stay for a week, but not sure how that would go since he doesnt like to be away from u. u could try to teach him how to draw his own insulin. u should probably try to talk to ur endo about it and see if they have any suggestions..

I can totally relate to the emotional issues here, but my daughter is the one struggling with her brother's illness.  She started having panic attacks too and worries something will happen to him or us while she is away.  The first few days of school were terrible, and she called me crying each one :(    We are working on coping skills in therapy right now and seem to be have some good progress.  My heart hurt for you, I know how it is on you to watch him go thru this.  There is so little we can do to help them.  It is probably a much bigger issue than just the diabetes.  He is starting to grow up and he will have to dp more and more things himself.  That can be overwhelming for any kid.

My son went to camp - LOVED it.  That is a great suggesting if you can talk him into it.   He will be well taken care of for sure.  And the pens are a good suggestion too.  We have always used those, and they are very easy.  Me T1 started doing everything day 1.  He gives himself his own shots, carb counts, etc.  He's 10 :) so 11 would be totally fine with the pens.

Hope that helps!

I have experience with this issue. Please private message me.