Dr. Susan Lehmann
Avoiding the Holiday Blues
Diabetes and Depression
by Susan Lehmann
Living with diabetes can be challenging. It involves attending to diet and nutrition daily, monitoring blood sugar levels, and correctly taking medication. At times, the burden of dealing with a chronic disease that impacts one's life in so many ways can feel overwhelming and stressful. And 15 to 20 percent of people with diabetes experience common feelings of emotional distress that, if ignored, can develop into depression.
In fact, studies have shown that individuals with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression as are people who don't have diabetes. Scientists don't fully understand the link between diabetes and depression, but we do know that when a person has both diabetes and depression, their combined impact can lead to serious health consequences.
How can depression make diabetes worse?
When individuals suffer from depression, they may become less vigilant about their eating choices, stop exercising, or miss doses of medication. Patients with diabetes and depression are more likely to have poorer blood glucose control, more physical symptoms of diabetes, higher health care costs, and are at higher risk for diabetes complications.
How do doctors recognize depression? The signs they look for include:
- a persistently sad or irritable mood
- loss of interest and pleasure in activities and hobbies that were formerly enjoyable
- difficulty concentrating
- low energy, fatigue
- difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up too early with inability to fall back to sleep
- weight loss or weight gain
- feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- thoughts of death or suicide
The good news is that depression can be successfully treated. Treatment usually involves psychotherapy and/or antidepressant medication. Depression is a medical condition, just as diabetes is, and it's important for your doctor or mental health professional to guide the treatment. With depression treatment, not only will energy and wellbeing be restored, but diabetes symptoms will improve as well.