Diabetes and Depression | Why Does One Lead to Another?
Living with diabetes is not easy. Every single day you are tasked with a never-ending juggling act of constantly monitoring your blood sugars, diet, physical activity, and medications.
No wonder, diabetes, be it new or long-standing, can trigger emotions of grief, disappointment, fear, stress and frustration. Net result? Living with diabetes can lead to depression.
But the good news is depression & diabetes can be treated together. And by using an effective treatment strategy, one can have a positive effect on the other.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the prevalence of depression in people with diabetes, the vicious cycle of depression and diabetes, symptoms of depression and how to cope with both depression & diabetes simultaneously.
Depression in people with diabetes: How prevalent is it?
The exact percentage of patients with diabetes that develop depression is not evident. Here are some findings from medical research that establishes a clear link between the two:
- Research shows 41% of Indians living with type 2 diabetes suffer from depression.
- Conversely, another study from the University of Washington showed that 80% of people with type 2 diabetes develop depression.
- Another research published in Endocrine magazine concluded that 20-30% of patients with diabetes suffer from depressive symptoms.
- Similarly, a study concluded that patients who were depressed were 17% more likely to develop diabetes than those who are not.
Here are some jaw-dropping results of the survey* conducted by the Psychologists from Team Diabefly – A Diabetes Management Program. The results of this survey established a clear link between diabetes & depression in the Indian population.
- 48% of the patients with diabetes experienced high stress levels.
- 66% of the patients with diabetes had a high emotional burden.
There exists a bi-directional relationship between diabetes and depression. To understand this better, let us now understand the vicious cycle of the duo.
The vicious cycle of diabetes & depression
Many patients with diabetes find it challenging to cope up with the day-to-day requirements. They feel overwhelmed and often get demotivated when asked to follow a strict diabetes routine.
Failure to reach their HbA1c goals and the fear of developing diabetes-related complications increases stress, thereby leading to depression.
On the other hand, depression interferes with the ability to think clearly. It causes indecisiveness and the inability to perform tasks like taking the medications and meals on time, exercising etc.
Depression causes a rise in a stress hormone — cortisol, which interferes with glucose metabolism, increases insulin resistance and causes accumulation of belly fat.
Additionally, a depressed person will make poor lifestyle decisions, like unhealthy eating that includes consuming processed food, reduced exercise, smoking, binge drinking — all of these factors increase the risk for diabetes.
Research has shown that diabetes and depression are linked together, but a clear connection of ‘which causes which’ is not fully understood.
Symptoms of depression
Depression will not only affect your blood sugar levels, but it also impacts other aspects of your life like your career, social relationships, personal relationships, academic life and much more.
If a person is experiencing the following symptoms for at least two weeks then, they may be struggling with depression:
- Persistent sadness, or anxiety and feeling of hollowness.
- A feeling of hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness.
- Lack of interest in activities that otherwise give pleasure.
- Abnormal sleep, either oversleeping or having insomnia.
- Thoughts of committing suicide, death and suicide attempt.
- Change in weight and appetite.
Managing both diabetes & depression together
Depression can cause poor glycemic and metabolic control that leads to poor diabetes management. However, the good news is diabetes and depression can be treated together.
1. Talk to your diabetes care team
Although you may find it difficult to speak up and ask for help if you are facing symptoms of depression, remember your doctor or Diabefly Coach has seen many patients who have struggled with depression.
So don’t feel ashamed or stop yourself from seeking professional help, thinking what others might think of you. Depression is common!
2. Complement your medications with diabetes care programs
Diabetes care programs like Diabefly that focus on lifestyle change by bringing positive behaviour change can help improve blood sugar values, aid in weight loss, increase fitness levels, and prevent diabetes-related complications.
A survey conducted by the Psychologists of Team Diabefly showed that 86% of Indian patients with diabetes are highly willing to bring the desired behaviour and lifestyle change.
Understanding the importance of such diabetes care programs is crucial apart from taking medications to manage diabetes. Diabetes care goes incomplete without proper lifestyle modification under guided supervision.
3. Plan a Psychotherapy session
Your diabetes doctor might advise you to schedule a session with a Psychotherapist to get expert care. These therapy sessions are your best opportunity to get the much-needed help.
4. Take medications for managing both diabetes and depression
Your doctor will prescribe oral anti-diabetic medications and insulin to get your blood sugars within the targeted range. Your psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressants to manage depression.
And trust me, there is no shame in taking antidepressants! Since there are different types of antidepressants available in the market, it is best to talk to your doctor about how these pills might affect your diabetes needs to get the right fit for yourself.
Get 360-degree care with Diabefly to manage diabetes & depression
Lastly, above all, always remember, depression is temporary. Life is full of ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ wherein neither will last forever. With diabetes, keep patience and learn to manage it smartly by tweaking your lifestyle by approaching it day-by-day.
And you are not alone! We are here for you. We have designed a holistic program to manage both diabetes & depression — Diabefly. Our team comprises a Diabetes Educator & Coach, a Clinical Psychologist, a Certified Physiotherapist who understands what you have gone through and manages both realistically.
Our Diabefly Coach provides customised diet plans that are not restrictive. So, for example, we let you eat the foods you love so that you don’t have to give up the things you enjoy or give up foods that you’re used to eating, which would otherwise result in depression in people living with diabetes.
*Data on file, Baseline data of 50 patients, an exploratory study.
Fiore V, Marci M, Poggi A, Giagulli VA, Licchelli B, Iacoviello M, Guastamacchia E, De Pergola G, Triggiani V. The association between diabetes and depression: a very disabling condition. Endocrine. 2015 Feb;48(1):14-24.
Katon WJ. The comorbidity of diabetes mellitus and depression. The American journal of medicine. 2008 Nov 1;121(11):S8-15.
Siddiqui S, Jha S, Waghdhare S, Agarwal NB, Singh K. Prevalence of depression in patients with type 2 diabetes attending an outpatient clinic in India. Postgraduate medical journal. 2014 Oct 1;90(1068):552-6.