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Spotlight - Family and Friends: Depression Can Go Hand-In-Hand

separator People with diabetes tend to experience depression at a higher rate than those who don't have diabetes. One analysis of 25 years of data showed that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and women have a higher rate than men.

It's not completely clear why this is, but there are plenty of theories. After the diagnosis of diabetes, people often discover they need to give up a way of life they may have been happy with. They now have to pay more attention to the types and amounts of food they eat, monitor blood sugar, take exercise seriously, etc. They may worry how taking care of themselves will affect their ability to work and their relationships with family.

All of this change, worry and pressure to take care of yourself in such a controlled way, literally for as long as you live, is enough to cause stress, depression and maybe even panic or anxiety.

There's also been some evidence that depression itself may cause a higher rate of diabetes, although no studies have proven this for sure. One thought is that people who are depressed are more likely to be inactive and to overeat, which can lead to obesity-one of the risk factors for diabetes.

Symptoms of Depression (Similar to Some Diabetes Symptoms)

People with diabetes may be having symptoms of depression but don't realize it. It's understandable, because depression symptoms sometimes mirror those of diabetes. Depression symptoms include:

  • Sad, down mood for most of the day
  • Decreased interest in activities that used to be pleasurable
  • Difficulty sleeping or need for increased sleep
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Low energy level
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you feel tired all the time, can't concentrate, are having trouble controlling your weight or are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it might not even occur to you that depression could be the cause.

Don't forget that there are different types of depression. For some people, the depression can be so severe that they have to struggle just to get out of bed and face each day. For others, it can be less severe but still there, affecting general outlook. Some people cover depression well and continue working, taking care of their families and just managing to get through the day.

Why is it Important to Treat Depression?

Having depression is serious for anyone. It affects pretty much every aspect of your life. It drains your energy and makes it hard to work up any interest in basic activities. It can put a big strain on your relationship with your spouse and children. Job performance can suffer. People with diabetes seem to have more trouble controlling their blood sugar. There's been some evidence that glucose levels improve as the depression goes away.

If you think there's any chance that you could be suffering from depression, your doctor can help you find a psychiatrist or other mental health clinician who can sort out whether your symptoms are caused by diabetes alone or whether depression is playing a role. If you find that you do have depression, it's important for your mental health clinician to work with the rest of your health care team to coordinate your treatment plan.

Excellent Treatments are Available

There have been many developments in the treatment of depression in recent years. New antidepressant medications have fewer side effects for many people, although you may have to try several medications before you find the one that's right for you.

Psychotherapy, or "talk" therapy, is effective for many people too, often in combination with medication. Different types of talk therapy can also help people with diabetes who don't have depression. One thing is certain: anyone with depression should seek treatment. Treating depression in people with diabetes has been shown to help with blood sugar control. And if there's a chance that treating depression may help avoid diabetes onset, that's one more reason to consider talking to a mental health professional.

American Psychiatric Association; Diabetes Care, June 2001
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