Why are Diabetes and Depression Linked? | Sherita Golden, M.D., M.H.S.
Type 1 Diabetes and Depression
For some people, having type 1 diabetes may bring feelings of isolation, loss of control, and deep sadness.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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"When I was diagnosed [with diabetes], the first thing I thought was, "Now I am completely different from anybody else,'" says Dana Lewis, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Alabama who has had type 1 diabetes since she was 14.
Lewis, who is now a diabetes advocate and has testified before Congress about the need for more diabetes research, says that having type 1 diabetes can leave you feeling completely alone — and that there is no one who can help you or understand what you are going through.
"Depression is common in anyone with a chronic disease, but it is particularly common in patients with type 1 diabetes," says Jennifer Goldman-Levine, PharmD, a diabetes educator and associate professor of pharmacy practice at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston.
Depression and Type 1 Diabetes: Understanding the Link
Studies have shown that if you have diabetes, you are at increased risk of becoming depressed — in fact, you might have double the risk, according to one study. The exact reasons aren’t fully understood, but the stresses associated with having type 1 diabetes are thought to play a part.
Diabetes-associated stresses may include:
- Feelings of isolation, since only 5 to 10 percent of the diabetes community has type 1 diabetes (the majority have type 2)
- Feeling overwhelmed by the many things you have to do to manage your diabetes
- Worrying about diabetes-related complications such as nerve damage
- Loss of your sense of control when your blood sugar levels are out of control
- Tension between you and your doctor
Depression and Type 1 Diabetes: Signs To Be Aware of
"Depression is not a character flaw, nor is it your fault," says Goldman-Levine. She says that your health care provider should be screening you for symptoms of depression on a regular basis. "But it's also something that patients should be looking for,” she adds.
Goldman-Levine says to talk with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Not wanting to do things that you used to enjoy
- Sleeping more or sleeping less
- Eating more or eating less
- Feeling down all of the time
Depression and Type 1 Diabetes: The Need for Treatment
Getting treated for depression is important for anyone, but even more so if you have type 1 diabetes.
"Having untreated depression will severely impact [type 1 diabetics'] ability to take care of themselves and will worsen the blood sugar control," says Goldman-Levine.
When you are depressed, it can be difficult to muster the energy and motivation it takes to manage your condition. You may not be testing your blood sugar levels enough, you may have a hard time adhering to your diet, and you may even skip meals, which can be dangerous.
If you are depressed, your doctor can prescribe treatments, such as antidepressant medications, that can help, or refer you to a mental health professional experienced in treating patients with depression. In some cases, lack of blood sugar control can cause symptoms of depression, so working with your medical team to get your levels under control may help.
In addition, says Julie Walther Scheibel, MEd, a counselor at Concordia Seminary Counseling and Resource Center in St. Louis, lifestyle changes that can help lift your spirits include joining a support group of other people with type 1 diabetes, regularly exercising, practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, and getting involved with hobbies you enjoy. Positive steps such as these will help you start enjoying life again.
Video: Diabetes | Can It Cause Depression? | StreamingWell.com
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