Diabetes and Depression: What's the Connection?

Merely Me Health Guide
  • It may or may not come as a huge surprise to those of you who suffer from diabetes that depression is closely associated with this disease.  The American Diabetes Association tells us that people with diabetes are at greater risk for depression. They provide statistics which show that while the incidence of depression affecting the general population is between three to five percent, the rate of depression among diabetics shoots up to 15-20 percent.


    The mind-body connection is undeniable in that physical illness quite often affects our emotional well being and mood.  Likewise, if you suffer from a mood disorder, many researchers now say that you may be more at risk for having a serious medical condition such as diabetes. A 2004 study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University took a look at 11,615 initially nondiabetic adults aged 48-67 years, who were subsequently followed for 6 years for the development of type 2 diabetes. At the end of the study they concluded that "depressive symptoms predicted incident type 2 diabetes."  Despite the research, when some individuals have both diabetes and depression, it is often unclear which condition came first.  Here is what we do know about this link between diabetes and depression.

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    Possible reasons for the association between diabetes and depression:

    • Diabetes is a serious and difficult disease to manage. It takes work in order to feel well. This constant vigilance can cause great stress. In turn, this stress can make you wonder if you will be able to cope. You may feel alone in your day to day struggle with your disease. Feelings of isolation and hopelessness can easily turn into depression.
    • One of the worst feelings which can accompany having a serious illness like diabetes is feeling like your life is out of control. Also there may be fears of complications due to your disease such as nerve damage or worse. Fears of the future as well as feelings of helplessness can also contribute to depression.
    • In addition to the emotional turmoil caused by having a disease like diabetes, there are also biological reasons why diabetes may be a precursor to depression. The physical symptoms of diabetes such as fatigue and/or mental weariness, related to your blood sugar levels, can cause you to feel emotionally low. This can set up a negative feedback cycle where you feel too tired and depressed to adequately manage your disease or to eat healthy. Poor management of your disease can cause depression like symptoms.


    How do I recognize the signs of depression?

    Here are some of the common signs of depression provided to us by My Depression Connection on Health Central. Spotting the first signs of depression is critical to getting the help and treatment you need.

    • A loss of pleasure in activities you once enjoyed.
    • Great changes in your appetite or weight. Some people will eat very little when depressed and some people will eat significantly more. Any great fluctuations in your weight over a short amount of time can signal a mood disorder.
    • Low or depressed affect for the majority of days each week. You might also feel irritable or angry.
    • Disturbance of sleep of either sleeping too much or too little. You may wake up in the middle of the night or experience trouble getting to sleep in the first place.
    • Feelings of excessive mental and physical weariness. You may be unable to do tasks of everyday living that you used to do with ease.
    • Feelings of agitation, nervousness, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate.
    • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
    • Thoughts of hurting yourself or even of suicide. Feelings like you are a burden to others and that you are looking for a way to stop the pain.

    If you have been experiencing several or more of these symptoms for a period of two weeks or more it is time to get some help.  Please contact your doctor to set up a referral to a mental health practitioner.  You don't have to suffer through this alone.  There is both treatment and support for depression.


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    How to get support for Diabetes and/or Depression:


    Some of the possible treatments for depression include therapy and//or the use of antidepressants.  Many people find that in addition to these types of treatments, finding support among peers is also critical to improving emotional wellness.  If you suffer from both diabetes and depression it is really important that you find people who you can talk to about both conditions.  Here are two places you can find such support.

    My Depression Connection:   Health Central welcomes you to My Depression Connection where you can find information and support for depression.  We hope you will share your story and connect with others who understand what you are going through.



    My Diabetes Central:  If you have diabetes or are a caretaker to a loved one who has diabetes, you have come to the right place.  Here you can meet other people who are also trying to cope with this disease.  Please feel free to ask a question, share your experiences, or reach out to help other members.  Ask other patients here and you will find that being a part of an on-line supportive community can be very healing.  Thank you for being a member!




    American Diabetes Association


    Sherita Hill Golden, Janice E. Williams, Daniel E. Ford, Hsin-Chieh Yeh, Catherine Paton Sanford, F. Javier Nieto, and Frederick L. Brancati "Depressive Symptoms and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes," Diabetes Care February 2004 27:429-435; doi:10.2337/diacare.27.2.429

Published On: November 13, 2009