Depression and Diabetes
Having diabetes can increase the likelihood of experiencing depression. In fact, people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression as people who don't have diabetes.
Doctors aren’t sure why this is. It may be that diabetes changes your brain chemistry. It may be that the strain of managing your diabetes makes you more prone to depression. Or it may even be that people with depression are more likely to develop diabetes.
People with both depression and diabetes tend to have higher blood glucose levels than people without depression. They’re also more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. And if you’re depressed, it makes it more difficult to do the best job managing your diabetes. This makes it doubly important to recognize the signs of depression early and to get help if you need it.
Are you depressed? Know the symptoms
Everyone has days when they feel down. Sometimes you may even have two or three days in a row when you feel blue. Because let’s face it, diabetes can be frustrating. It can be exasperating and exhausting. Every one of us has days when we simply feel overwhelmed. But when you find yourself feeling down for more than a short time, it might be a bigger problem. Learn to recognize some of the early signs of depression:
- Changes in your sleep patterns - You might wake much earlier or later than you normally do. You might have a hard time falling asleep, or want to sleep much more than usual.
- Loss of interest in things - You find you don’t enjoy things that you used to.
- Change in appetite - You may find that you are eating much more or much less than what is usual for you. You may also gain or lose weight very quickly.
- Trouble concentrating - You might find it hard to concentrate long enough to watch a TV program or to stay focused on a conversation.
- Exhaustion - You may feel tired all the time, even if you haven’t done anything strenuous.
- Anxiety - Feeling anxious about things that normally wouldn't upset you.
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or sad.
- Aches and pains with no physical cause.
- Thoughts about hurting yourself - Suicidal thoughts.
If you have three or more of these symptoms, you might be depressed. And if you have one or two but you’ve had them for two weeks or more, it might be time to talk to someone. And of course if you’ve thought about suicide or harming yourself in other ways, it’s time to get help right now.
Getting help for depression with diabetes
Recognizing the symptoms is the first step toward feeling better. The second is talking to your diabetes doctor. Poor diabetes management can cause symptoms that look a lot like depression, and your doctor can make sure there isn’t a physical reason for them.
For example, see-saw blood sugar can make you tired and anxious. Low blood sugar can make you extremely hungry during the day, and low blood sugar during the night not only can disrupt your sleep, it can leave you feeling exhausted during the day. Or high blood sugars may cause you to wake up during the night to use the bathroom, which can also leave you feeling tired.
If you have depression symptoms and there’s no physical cause, your doctor may refer you to a specialist like a counselor or a psychologist. Depending on your situation, they may offer you a prescription for antidepressants, suggest counseling, or both.
If you think you may be depressed, don’t wait to ask for help. The longer you wait, the more serious your symptoms may become. And if you’re having thoughts of suicide or of hurting yourself, talk to someone right now. You can reach a real, live, caring person 24 hours per day by calling the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
There's no shame in asking for help, the only shame is if you suffer in silence.