We know there are many factors that come into play when it comes to managing life with a chronic health condition. Our attitude, outlook, strength and mindset all play an important role.
But what about our personality? Do our personality traits affect the way we deal with living with diabetes?
Well, of course!
If our personality defines the sort of person we are then it stands to reason that our personality traits will play a part in how we view and respond to everything – including the day to day living with diabetes.
The Big Five personality traits in psychology are openness (to experience), conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, all of which I believe, in my very non-scientific approach, impact on our attitude to and way we live with diabetes.
I consider myself to be pretty open to experience, not especially conscientious (I have so little self-discipline it’s not funny…pass me another doughnut. Thank you.), extraverted, agreeable and not particularly neurotic or anxious (unless talking about eye complications and a worry that the world Nutella supply may be in threat).
The way the cards have fallen to determine my personality is not necessarily useful when it comes to managing diabetes. Surely having a high level of conscientiousness is king when it comes to managing something like diabetes! (I’ll use this as the reason that I have never, ever kept a regular BGL diary….)
However, being open to new ideas has definitely been of use when it comes to being an early adopter of diabetes technology or considering an out of the box way to manage a difficult diabetes problem. And extraversion and seeking the company of others to crowd source information and learn about others’ experiences and learnings with diabetes has been nothing but positive in my diabetes management. Being secure and confident in my decision making and abilities rather than neurotic and second guessing myself definitely helps in making decisions, sticking to them and owning how I choose to manage things.
These traits determine how I see and how I live with diabetes each and every day.
But could our personality have something to do with actually developing health conditions? (No – this has nothing to do with lack of self-love causing auto-immune conditions. ‘Cause that’s a load of C R A P.)
This study looked into a link between personality and health, specifically how different personality traits impacted biological immune responses. (This article breaks it down nicely for simpleton folk like yours truly to understand.)
One of the findings of the study is that people defined as have an extroverted personality have more pro-inflammatory genes which means that we may be better at fighting off illness. The negative side of this is that ‘over-alert’ pro-inflammatory genes can also result in an increased incidence of autoimmune conditions.
In my highly non-scientific study of n=1, this rings true. I am overall pretty healthy and manage to avoid catching (most) everyday viruses. Good work, autoimmune system!
I also collect autoimmune conditions (last count – I have three). Not such great work, immune system!
As with many studies, there are still lots of questions to be answered. In a chicken/egg type scenario, there is no answer to what is causing what? Is it our personality that determines our immune system or is it the other way around?
Trying to piece together the puzzle of autoimmune conditions is a long road. I will never ever understand how it is that I developed diabetes at the exact point that I did. Whist I understand the genetic predisposition component, the trigger aspect has me scratching my head to this day.
But this is another little piece slotted into place in what is looking to be a one bazillion piece puzzle.