Diabetic or Person with Diabetes?


I’m still relatively new to the Diabetes Online Community because although my blog is a few months shy of two years old, my entire first year of blogging coincided with my twin babies and their first year so I didn’t have a lot of extra time to read other blogs. 

So since I’ve been reading a lot of different diabetes websites and blogs I’ve noticed some people say “diabetic” and some are very set on saying instead, “person with diabetes”.

I have been accustomed to saying “diabetic” and continue to say it because it’s shorter than “person with diabetes”.  The shortest route is abbreviating “person with diabetes” into “PWD” but I personally don’t like using abbreviations, although I don’t mind reading them.  For some reason I can’t help but think of “POW” when I read “PWD”.  My husband does, too. 

The point of this post is to ask the questions, Which do you say and why?  And Is there a particular reason “person with diabetes” is used in place of “diabetic” or the other way around?  I need to be filled in.  So far I’ve had no problem referring to myself as a diabetic.  The term doesn’t offend me.  I’ve been described as “eclectic”, “Hispanic”, “romantic”, and “chocoholic” and those also don’t bother me.  But maybe there is something I’m not aware of?  Help me my dear “d-peeps”.  I want to understand.

11 thoughts on “Diabetic or Person with Diabetes?

  1. Ana Morales

    I think some people just view the word “diabetic” as a label and a lot of people don’t like labels or being labeled. Personally, I don’t mind calling myself a diabetic. I don’t think being labeled is a bad thing, because its basically just how people describe each other.

  2. Sysy Post author

    Yeah, that is what I always figured, that it was just a one word way to say someone had diabetes.

    Thanks, Annie!

  3. Jason Turner

    I self identify as a Jason – and a diabetic – and a transplant patient – all among other things.

    For years it was as a diabetic first – and not in a good way either – but I am beyond that now I feel. I have taken the label – and I own it now.

    Not a huge fan of needing to say person with diabetes – but I understand the reasoning and the need for some people.

  4. Melissa E

    I just say diabetic too. I get the same feeling about PWD, because I am new to reading blogs about diabetes too and at first always thought “why is that person talking about POW’s” because my brain refused to register the abbreviation as something different! I don’t find either label offensive.

  5. Celine

    I work with people who have a developmental disability and there is a big push to use person first language. The rationale is that we are all people first. So we don’t say a disabled person, we say person with a disability. Therefore, I understand the push to say ‘person with diabetes’. I will typically say that I have diabetes instead of I’m diabetic. It’s semantics but it does make a huge difference to some people. What is comes down to, in my opinion, is respecting how each person chooses to describe themselves.

  6. Sysy Post author

    “respecting how each person chooses to describe themselves”

    Celine, I like your input. That last line is the perfect way to put it! Thanks :)

  7. Jane K

    I really appreciate your asking about this “debate.” I agree that the most important thing is to respect what people prefer to call themselves. In doing that, however, when referring to people we don’t know, it’s safer to avoid “diabetic.” Being a diabetes professional, it’s somewhat ingrained not to use “diabetic” except when describing a study population, etc. (a group of diabetic women received the study drug). Even then, I tend to just say “a group of women with diabetes” because I’m used to it and I don’t find it difficult or awkward. I have avoided blogging about this because I don’t want to upset anyone and many people have very strong feelings about it, one way or the other. I will, however, post something at some point, so stay tuned!

  8. Sysy Post author

    Thank you, Jane! I have been slowly noticing what you say about it being safer to just say people or person with diabetes and have been trying to get into the habit of using that more often. I think it’s good that people discuss or debate the subject because in my case, it’s helped me learn how to best respect others-which is a big goal of mine and hopefully a big goal for others.

  9. Erin

    From personal experience, I find it takes forever to explain myself when I describe myself as “diabetic.” Once I use that term, I get “Oh, why don’t you just eat better and lose weight?” Then I have to say I have type 1 diabetes, and explain how type 1 and type 2 are different diseases with different treatments and complications. Therefore, the term “diabetic” is no longer my shortest option. So I always say “I have type 1 diabetes.” If I’m feeling feisty, I add “no, I cannot get rid of it, there is no cure.”

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