diabetes and depression

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be a hardship for anyone. Some people have been born with it and find it tedious to follow the necessary care day after day over the course of years, while others are newly diagnosed and may feel overwhelmed by the host of lifestyle changes and requirements necessary to manage the disease.  This is called diabetes burnout, and unfortunately is an all too common symptom of the disease. Diabetes and depression, unfortunately, seem to go hand-in-hand far too often.

According to Regina Castro, M. D. at the Mayo clinic, people with diabetes have an “increased risk of developing depression. And if you’re depressed, you may have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes.”

When a person is depressed they have an increased difficulty handling their needs everyday. This results in a decrease in self-care activities, and poor choices regarding their health. A person suffering from depression may have difficulty eating properly, exercising, or performing their normal routines.

For a diabetic person, this can be disastrous, leading to sugar drops and peaks and a plethora of complications that come with it. The full interactions of diabetes and depression are not known; however, it has been shown that the inherent difficulties of managing diabetes can be stressful, thus leading to depression. Beyond that, the typical symptoms of depression can make it almost impossible to think clearly, and thus effectively manage your diabetes. 

The good news is that both of these diseases are treatable and manageable; furthermore, treating one may help treat the other. 

When you are struggling with diabetes and depression, it is important to communicate with your doctor what you are experiencing. Many people find it difficult to speak up about their depression, fearing the social stigma of needing help.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 16.2 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in the least few years. You are not alone, and there are many people specially trained to assist you. But, If they don’t know, they cannot  help you. When you speak up you allow them the opportunity to refer you to the resources best suited to help you become and remain well. Many physicians find that diabetes self-management programs help their patients because the focus on their own behaviours can help them to regulate their metabolic rate, increase physical fitness, manage weight loss, and overall improve self esteem.

Another focus on behavioral therapy- cognitive behavioral therapy- was found to have similar results in treating depression, leading to a better grasp on managing a patient’s diabetes. Beyond behavior, medication can play an important role in improving both diseases. The chemical imbalances caused by both depression and diabetes can be bewildering to deal with, and finding a proper balance through insulin and anti-depressants can be a huge boon to the diabetic patient.  Of course, talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking and how they may interact with each other. If you are seeing separate physicians for each, make sure they are both aware of any changes you may have in doses or types of medications. In some areas, you can even find treatment centers that offer collaborative care nurses- people who will oversee both aspects of your wellness plan and monitor your status to help recommend changes. 

If you suffer from diabetes and depression, it may feel as if you have too much on your plate to handle. If you suffer from both it may seem insurmountable to manage them at all – but it isn’t. If you have diabetes and think you may be experiencing diabetes burnout, speak up. Reach out to your primary care physician and ask for help. They can refer you to a mental health specialist that can help you conquer your problems and get back to feeling like yourself.