Fear of public insulin shots

Hi everyone!

So I am in college and I sometimes find myself having a problem giving myself insulin shots in public. This has led to me not giving myself a fast-acting shot before a public meal which I immediately regret. I used to have pens, but recently due to finances I had to get the vials with syringes. The pen was a lot easier and more discreet but the vial causes unwanted attention to get drawn to me. I’ve already had an incident with the pen where I had to give myself a shot during lecture and some girl looked at me crazy like I was shooting drugs. I couldn’t imagine what it would look like with the syringe :confused: Anyways, I don’t know why I’m embarrassed to give myself shots but I can’t help that I am and it’s getting in the way of my care at times. What are some ways that you guys have conquered embarrassment or fear of getting shots in public and do you have any advice for me?


I’m recently diagnosed and I use pens, but knowing that I sometimes get sick without insulin or knowing I need it has made me less embarrassed of doing it in public. Knowing that nowadays so many people have diabetes has also made me less embarrassed and just be sure of yourself and tell yourself that you’re a person like everyone else, just we have diabetes which isn’t something to be ashamed of.

I feel for you @GatorGirl17 . It can be embarrassing and intimidating to take an injection in public; and yes the pen is much more discrete than the vial, needle and syringe.

@Halliemae16 is right when she says you to be sure of yourself and be confident in who you are and in what you need to do - OK, I added my interpretation. It took me many years to reach that point but once I did, I found most people to be accepting and offering encouragement and support - but this was after I had been using insulin for 30 years.

Do keep in mind that if you ate eating in a public place and need to do a blood test and inject insulin that you are free to do so at the table and not be forced into an unsanitary toilet room - the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is on your side. and just a thought, there are sources to help you pay for diabetes supplies such as pens and test strips; ask at the UF medical facility and at the University Medical School for assistance - also your pharmacy.

I was diagnosed 17 months ago this week, and started insulin shots early October 2014. I actually find it amusing to “shoot up” in public and watch people’s reactions, but back when I was a college student that probably would have been tougher for me to do.

I am a faculty librarian at a university. If injecting in public makes you nervous or self-conscious, let your professor know, and explain you to leave class to visit the restroom to take you shots, WHEN you need them, not when it’s a break or convenient for the class. Your professor legally has to accommodate you, but every faculty colleague I know will completely understand.

It will come easier for you.

Does your college have a diabetes support group? If not, do you need materials to share with your professors, so they understand your needs as a Type 1 diabetic (I can send some).

hi @GatorGirl17, I have nothing to add for conquering this fear, because after 30++ years of T1, I still don’t test and I have never injected in public. Don’t like it, or the idea, so I don’t. On some level I am embarrassed by T1, maybe I should go back to therapy =). I always opted for privacy, including bathrooms. Just easier for me in terms of tension and anxiety.

I know you said money was an issue, so it won’t help to say that with my pump I can easily add a meal bolus in public, I am sorry you have to go through this, I just wanted you to know you are not alone.

I know it’s awkward, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I did shots with syringes for the first 20 years or so before I got a pump. I got really good at being pretty discreet by hiding my hands under a table or turning towards the back of my chair. If someone gave me a weird look, I’d just stare back at them. Clearly I was not on drugs! If they persisted and gave me a dirty look, I’d just smile and mouth the word “diabetic” and that would shut them down.

The biggest thing to remember is that anyone who would have the gall to look at you is likely not someone you’ll ever meet or even see again, so just do what you have to, be as discreet as reasonably possible, and don’t let other people’s discomfort keep you from bolusing yourself, because it’s what you need to stay alive and healthy.

Hopefully once things settle down after school and you get a good job, you can look into a pump, which I think you’ll find very helpful!

Have you considered getting an insulin pump? I WISH I had it in college. Makes life so much easier. Would highly recommend. My pump recently died and while waiting for a new one (waited a week) it was the worst. I had to give shots in public and it was so awkward. Shots are the worst. Please look into pumps. I’m on the Omnipod and love it.

Airports, restaurants, the car after lunch or dinner. I inject just about anywhere. I try to be relatively discreet, but the whole process takes about 10 seconds. If that. Don’t worry about what some stranger might think. Your health is much more important.

I am also a college student and am to the point in my life where confidence is the key to being indiscreet. If I feel awkward I look awkward. I recently lost someone very dear to me from cancer. I know he would have considered himself so lucky to have had a disease that was controlled by administering shots. I resent that I have to compare myself to others who are less fortunate than me but I also have a disease that allows me the luxury of controlling my destiny and for that I am grateful. I use to carry syringes pre loaded in a case that way I could pull them
Out without having to load th

HI Everyone, over the past 65 years as a Type 1 (there were no types in 1950) I’ve “graduated” to a (CGM) Continuous Glucose Monitor which has simplified life immensely! :). I’ve learned to administer my meal time shots into my arms. If it’s Breakfast, my left arm. If it’s Lunch, my right arm. HOWEVER IF IT’s DINNER I prefer to go to the restroom rather than lift my pant leg at the table . . . . . this = smiley face :). At 9pm every evening no matter where I find my self I take Levemir and that dosage has been decreasing 1/2 a unit almost daily since this (2015) Summer began. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the same amount of exercise (which isn’t much). I’ve also learned to ALWAYS have a mini-box of raisins in my jeans whenever the day begins and AT NIGHT ALWAYS HAVE a 4oz. box of Juicy Juice (JJ) on my nightstand where I can reach it if my CGM goes off which always BEEPs me awake. HOWEVER the CGM does continue to BEEP until the juice gets into my digestive system (this usually takes about 10 minutes. When traveling my husband and I both make sure JJs are always with us: in our vehicles, in luggage, in purse (especially on aircraft) and ALWAYS be sure to have my DR’s permission slip for insulins and syringes and testers (this eliminates them being confiscated at airports and large audience events). Only once have a had a person be disturbed by my “at the table syringe-filling” then I with the LORD’s help made my way to the restroom 2 LARGE Rooms away even though my CGM read 42 (= should have asked for a glass of milk instead of water when the waitress brought the menus for us to look at). Hope all these learning experiences of my have been a help to other Type1s. Happy Living the Diabetes LIFE; It IS POSSIBLE :slight_smile:

I used to have a carrying case that let me draw up the syringe, then put the cap on and put it in the case to be taken later. I don’t even know where to direct you to get one (this was YEARS ago), but they do exist. Maybe someone else can help? Not having to actually draw up the syringe might help until you become more confident.

Yoy could be weird about. If they make you uncomfortable, make them uncomfortable.

If someone was having a asthma attack they would use a inhaler without thinking about it. Type 1 Diabetes require insulin shots. It’s do or die. Don’t be so concern about other people. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to look.

You’re not alone in feeling embarrassed. I was diagnosed as a young child over 20 years ago and hated it when people at restaurants watched me test my blood sugar. Back then diabetes was still quite rare (and often a death sentence for children). The only people my family and I knew who had it were all elderly (and they usually had type 2). I eventually noticed that most of the people watching were elderly themselves, and were probably watching because they were surprised to see a child so young with diabetes. People are more aware of diabetes now, so I’ve noticed that sort of staring less frequently. As for injections, I always used to go to a bathroom because I took most of my shots in my buttocks or legs and I couldn’t pull down my pants in public. Now that I take injections in my arm and stomach, I’ve started taking them in public. I find it’s even more embarrassing when someone walks in on you injecting in secret at the bathroom sink. And trying to balance everything on your lap while sitting in a toilet stall is uncomfortable.

The only times I compromised were for my needle-phobic friend in high school and at my first ever 9-5 job. I worked at a lab, so we were frequently being inspected by the USDA and FDA (as required by law, not because we were being reported for doing something wrong) and there were rules in the lab about proper disposal of syringes and whatnot. So my boss was confused/worried that my personal equipment would also come under inspection (which is absurd) and that if they saw me injecting or something in the lunch room we’d be flagged for it because it was unsanitary or something. Maybe I should have made a fuss and pulled the ADA card, but checking and injecting in the locker room was easier than going to HR. I had to stop in the locker room on the way to the lunch room anyway. I did that until my promotion gave me a new boss and a desk of my own, at which point I started doing everything at my desk.

The thing that gets me most about having to find a private place is the inconvenience of it. I’ve taken insulin in bathrooms that were less than clean. At work I’d leave the lab with my coworkers, but by the time I finished in the locker room they’d be in the lunch room and halfway done with lunch. I’ve had way more experiences with impatience (my “friends” in college didn’t want to wait for me either) than with staring. Plus privacy may not always be available, and I don’t want to sacrifice my health because someone else doesn’t know it’s rude to stare. I still get a little uncomfortable if a waiter or waitress comes while I’m in the middle of testing or injecting at a restaurant table, but it’s something I have to do and the embarrassment will pass.

One last thing RE Christy7’s comment: My friends and I saw a terrible play in high school that was basically a really long public service announcement, complete with a scene about drug abuse. After that, whenever I had to “shoot up” at school we’d start reenacting that scene for laughs. Something along the lines of:
“Don’t do it! You don’t need the drugs! We’re here for you!”
"No! I’m not strong enough! I’m sorry!"
That always got people’s attention :wink:

i know this may sound funny, but for me, people think its wayyy weirder and more “creepy” as they say, to hide my insulin shots. i don’t need to give shots any more but when i did i always just told myself to get it over with, and not to care what people think. good luck, and i hope u find a solution to your problems!


girl you just have to get over it. This is a condition that you have and will always have (unless a cure comes along). You will be happier ultimately if you can learn to accept it and not feel like you need to hide a part of yourself. There is nothing wrong with you - you just have a health condition. :). Don’t hurt yourself over fear of what other people might think about you.

There are many contortions one can go through to “secretly” inject insulin when out in the open - but no matter how hard one tries to conceal what is going on someone else will almost notice. and that “someone else” would probably assume that something illegal is going on.

That is why, about 30 years ago, after trying to conceal what I was doing decided to be more open and when I thought appropriate say something like “… I’d better take my insulin”. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how accepting most people can be, and it also afforded me an opportunity to provide some enlightenment.

Everyone, I am T1D since September 1986. I have found body angle and body positioning very important. Think of observing someone at a distance and you think of what they’re doing or reading, and you are trying to know, as you move about to geet the angle of viewing them.

One can also create distractions of subtle cover that creates an optical illusion, that hides your injection.

Please do call me should you have further questions : 917-963-9640 Jeff Benson.

Your post is extremely interesting to me. I, myself, am not diabetic, but my 4 year old son was just recently diagnosed. The pens didn’t work well for him, so we are a vial and syringe family as well :wink: I used to be embarrassed of even drawing up at the table when in public. Then I noticed that my son was starting to get embarrassed as well. I didn’t want him to EVER have to hide who he is or what he does to survive, so I stopped “hiding” the drawing up along with the injections themselves. We do it all at the table and he gets them in his behind. Of course, I hide his little tush from the public, but do what we need to do for his injection. Seeing your post makes me sad because you should never be embarrassed about who you are or what you need to do. Own it! Anyone that knows anything about this disease knows what a true warrior you are for dealing with this daily and will probably look at you like a rock star. The one’s that don’t know what you have to go through, this is your time to educate them! That being said, I hope you stop being embarrassed or ashamed of this in public, because I would love to have my son see someone else go through what he goes through and not be embarrassed by this. Then he would be able to relate to a complete stranger. Good luck with your schooling and your public injections, I hope you are able to move past this!

We use pens for my son for similar reason, and the “Nano” needle tip which is smallest needle tip available, i am told. They did not tell us about it at first and my son says it hurts much less with that. There is also a new “Echo” pen that remembers your last few doses and has cute colors, I am looking into that for my son, it is a Novolog pen.

And google around for cute things to hold your supplies in, they do exist. Tally gear for our Dexcom CMG comes in all kinds of colors, and patterns, and there are insulated bags that are colored, so look around and also there is something called College Diabetes Network, they have groups on Facebook so you can see what other people are doing.

Good luck and it is normal to feel that way, my 9 year old did and I read all the time people feel just like you describe, but you do have to DO IT and please stay safe and healthy.