Can diabetes cause depression and anxiety? Turns out, there is a link between diabetes and mental health status. Learn everything you need to know in this article about how diabetes and emotional distress are related, and how you can find help.
Read on for more information on depression, anxiety, and diabetes.
Is Depression Common with Diabetes?
Depression is more common in people with diabetes, but that doesn’t mean it is an inevitable part of being diagnosed. Studies suggest depression rates could double in the diabetic population than they are in the non-diabetic population.
Many practitioners see this as a call for more comprehensive diabetes care. Both patients and health care professionals are calling for a more holistic approach to healing that includes training on the emotional side of living with diabetes.
Are Diabetes and Depression Linked?
Diabetes and depression are linked in many ways. Most notably, in people with diabetes, depression is associated with:
• Poor health outcomes
• Poor diabetes self-management
• Poor medicine adherence
Depression, although considered a mental ailment by many, can also have effects on the physical body as well. Research shows that a body in distress may become hyperglycemic (high blood glucose levels), have an increased risk of complications, or even show a higher risk of early mortality (death).
Additionally, some research suggests diabetes distress can cause blood sugar to swing to the other end of the spectrum. Hypoglycemia or fear of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels) can occur. Potentially, distress can mess with the willingness to manage medications like insulin, which is a crucial and life-saving component of diabetes care.
In other words, diabetes and depression can be associated with a handful of adverse health outcomes. Diabetes distress and the effects of depression can cause a catch-22, a cycle where both become related and feed on the dysfunction of one another until a worst-case scenario happens.
It is important for patients to be aware of their own mental health, and it is important for practitioners to learn about the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress. This way, patients and practitioners can work together to create an appropriate and effective treatment plan.
Diabetes and Depression Treatment
Diabetes distress, or having an emotional response to living with diabetes, is actually a very normal phenomenon. From counting carbohydrates to checking blood sugar levels, from staying on top of medication to dealing with a new diagnosis, everything can feel entirely overwhelming.
However, there are a couple of simple tips and tricks to help you stay on top of it all.
Ask to Be Screened for Depression
Being screened for depression might seem intimidating, but it is a great way to identify red flags in your behavior. A screening, which is usually done by a therapist, can help gauge the following:
• Problems with diabetes
• Lack of social support
• Poor relationship with healthcare team (i.e. doctor)
• Accessibility level of health care
Getting screened may seem like a small thing, but it is key in finding signals that you might be depressed. Treating depression could, in turn, lower your risk of complications and even death (which is no small thing).
Remember Your Feelings Aren’t “Wrong”
Did you know that nearly 30-40% of adults with diabetes experience a significant amount of distress (i.e. depression) at some point? As mentioned above, diabetes is a chronic and demanding disease that requires a lot out of a patient.
Remember that it is normal to be experiencing an overwhelming amount of emotions and you are not “wrong” for having feelings.
Seek Out A Provider Who Gives Comprehensive Care
Your diabetes health care team shouldn’t just dispense medications. Be sure to find a team that is supportive of your mental and emotional needs while dealing with diabetes. This can take you from just surviving with diabetes to thriving with diabetes.
Understand The Stage You Are In
There is some research to suggest that the stage of diabetes you are in may affect how you are feeling. For example, being newly diagnosed or discovering complications may increase your likelihood of distress or depression.
The good news is that you can become equipped with tools during this time to help you manage these complicated feelings and situations.
Advocate for Different Interventions
Since medicine is often part of diabetes treatment, you may want to seek out non-pharmacological treatments for depression (and that is understandable). Working with a therapist can help you identify appropriate interventions for where you are personally.
Having regular screenings to monitor the severity of your emotional distress can help you to identify what is working.
Making Sense of Diabetes and Mental Health Conditions
Diabetes is a demanding disease, and many people think that depression is automatically linked to a diagnosis. On the contrary, there are many steps in the healthcare path that can help make diabetes more manageable.
Remember, it is not a journey you are expected to embark on alone! Ask for help when you need and keep in mind that there are mental health professionals that are meant to provide you with valuable support throughout the process.
Gonzalez J. Diabetes Distress and Depression. Niddk.nih.gov. Published January 2020. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/professionals/diabetes-discoveries-practice/diabetes-distress-and-depression.
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Wylie TAF, Shah C, Connor R, Farmer AJ, Ismail K, et al. Transforming mental well-being for people with diabetes: research recommendations from Diabetes UK’s 2019 Diabetes and Mental Well-Being Workshop. Diabetes Med. 2019;36(12):1532-1538.