For some people, diabetes and depression go together.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer from depression. On the other hand, people with depression have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
While we may not fully understand how the two conditions are connected — such as their causal relationship — it is clear that effectively treating one condition can have a beneficial effect on the other.
Does diabetes cause depression?
The demands of managing a chronic condition like diabetes can be stressful. The stress of daily diabetes care can build up and make you feel helpless. Indeed, some studies suggest that people with diabetes have twice the risk of developing depression than people without diabetes. And if they have visual problems or any diabetes complications, their risk of depression can increase further.
Another contributing factor is how well diabetes is controlled. For example, if your blood glucose is too high or too low, you can experience symptoms similar to depression such as feeling anxious, tired and drained of energy.
In addition, nerve damage and blocked blood vessels in the brain as a result of diabetes complication may affect brain chemistry and contribute to the development of depression.
Does depression worsen diabetes?
Just as diabetes may lead to depression, the reverse is also true. Studies suggest that people with depression are at higher risk for diabetes complications. For example, one study found that people with both type 2 diabetes and depression are more likely to experience a heart attack.
This is because if you are depressed, chances are you are tired and frustrated with your life. Because you feel this way, you are less likely to take care of yourself very well and this can lead to poor blood glucose control. One study found that depressed people with diabetes often have higher blood glucose levels.
Managing both diabetes and depression
Therefore, taking care of diabetes is not just about controlling blood glucose but also about keeping your mind healthy.
Look out for signs of depression and seek help early:
- Spot depression. If you have diabetes and have been feeling down, check for symptoms of depression. If you experience five or more of these symptoms every day for two weeks or longer, or you think you might be depressed, it is time to get help.
- Seek help. Tell your doctor how you feel so that he/she can rule out medical causes of depression such as thyroid problems and side effects from some medications. Blood glucose levels that are too high or too low can also mimic symptoms of depression. If you are diagnosed with depression, your doctor will advise you on a suitable treatment plan that may include medications, lifestyle changes and/or counselling. Depression is treatable. With proper management, you will find it easier to cope with diabetes and be healthier and happier.
Stay positive to beat both the blues and diabetes!