Diabetes and Depression

Whether a physiological correlation between diabetes and depression exists is still being questioned. However, a definite association exists between people who suffer chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, and incidences of depressive episodes.

Another issue with diagnosing depression in those with diabetes lies in the fact that poor control of blood glucose levels can present symptoms resembling depression. These symptoms include:

  • Constant fatigue, lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Moodiness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Vision difficulties
  • Increased infections caused by ineffective immune system response


Testing for diabetes in individuals exhibiting these symptoms and finding positive results for unregulated glucose levels may cancel an initial diagnosis of depression. Immediate administration of medication to lower blood sugar and counteract insulin resistance will generally alleviate these symptoms.

According to an article published in the journal Diabetes Spectrum, published by the American Diabetes Association, people suffering from chronic illnesses exhibit a depression rate of 20 to 70 percent. This is compared to a five percent rate of depression within the general population. Additionally, the article states that a depression rate as high as 70 percent is possible in people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. However, rates for diabetics suffering from depression must remain as estimations because many people do not seek help for depression symptoms.

The Stress of Dealing with a Chronic Disease

Managing a chronic disease is stressful and alienating. Medications need to be regularly taken, visits to various specialty doctors for examinations are necessary to prevent the disease from escalating and, occasionally, periodic surgery is required to inhibit complications of the disease. Dealing with diabetes is no exception, which is why a psychological correlation has been found between diabetes and depression.

A person who is depressed will neglect to engage in proper self-care, forget to take medications, eat unhealthy foods and gain weight due to lack of exercise. All of these things are dangerous to people suffering from diabetes because it creates a harmful cycle of habits that feed diabetic complications as well as unrelenting feelings of helplessness and sadness.

Basic symptoms of depression include:

  • Losing pleasure in hobbies, time spent with friends or family or other activities that used to provide enjoyment
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Drastic appetite changes
  • Inability to focus because of depressive thoughts intruding into one’s mind
  • Feeling nervous and anxious but tired at the same time
  • Feeling guilty for no reason
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal ideation

Once the physiological cause of depression is ruled out, the doctor may then prescribe an antidepressant and/or refer the diabetic to a counselor or psychologist.

Psychotherapy Treatment for Diabetes and Depression

Treatment for Diabetes and DepressionPsychotherapy is an effective method assisting chronic disease sufferers in understanding why they are depressed as well as why certain thoughts and emotions affect their ability to live a full and happy life. With the help of a trained counselor, a diabetic patient experiencing depression can learn how to cope with debilitating fears, guilt and feelings of hopelessness while regaining a sense of control necessary in implementing essential problem-solving skills. Several psychotherapeutic techniques are available and patients may discover one certain technique works better for them than others.

Medication, Diabetes and Depression

Because diabetics have to be extremely careful about what medications they take, only specific antidepressant drugs can be prescribed, such as these newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs):

  • Zoloft
  • Prozac
  • Wellbutrin
  • Effexor
  • Lexapro
  • Sarafem

Older antidepressants called “tricyclics” increase glucose levels when taken by diabetics as well as non-diabetics. Generally, most depressed diabetics respond favorably to at least one of the above antidepressants, which allows them to begin feeling like taking better care of themselves again and resolve both physical and mental issues provoked by dealing with a diabetic condition.

If you are a diabetic and think you may be suffering from depression, contacting your doctor and making an appointment for a complete physical examination will provide the help you need for diabetes and depression problems.


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