According to studies, diabetes and depression have known to go hand in hand. People with diabetes are three times more likely to be depressed in comparison to people without diabetes. It is the most common psychiatric disorder seen in the diabetes community. Moreover, depression, along with diabetes, can have a serious impact on an individual’s health and motivation to manage the condition.
Every second Thursday of October is being observed as World Mental Health Day, we tell you all about the connection between diabetes and depression, its risk factors, and diagnosis and treatment options:
What is Depression?
One of the most common medical conditions, depression is a term given when a person experiences most of the following symptoms:
- Continuous sadness or a feeling of anxiety
- Hopelessness and negativity
- A sense of powerlessness and helplessness to change the existing situation
- Increased fatigue and lower energy
- Insomnia, oversleeping, or no sleep at all
- Difficulty in concentration, indecisiveness, and memory problems
- Weight problems (sudden loss or gain)
- Dwelling on death or committing suicide
- Loss of interest in doing day-to-day activities
A person with diabetes or a newly diagnosed diabetic might feel overwhelmed to manage this condition as a lifelong task. At times, this makes a person feel difficult in coping with keeping the sugar levels in check.
Even poor management of diabetes can prompt symptoms that are similar to those of depression. For instance, a sudden increase or decrease in blood sugar may cause anxiety, restlessness, or low energy.
Diabetes and Depression: The Close Connection
A person recently diagnosed with diabetes might feel the condition to be an insurmountable barrier to the rest of his life. The effort required to keep the sugar levels in check is at times massive. Moreover, the thousands of pricks, constant watch on your diet, continuous intake of insulin injections, and spends on managing the condition can take a toll on a diabetic.
Diabetes is a progressive condition that requires mental and physical commitment to work on managing the sugar levels continuously. Whereas depression is a condition that makes an individual feel hopeless and powerless about the existing situation.
Therefore, depression and diabetes together can cause serious complications in managing the well-being of an individual. Research has indicated over and over that people with diabetes and depression are more likely to poorly manage their blood sugar compared to those without depression.
Though this relationship is not fully understood, the continuous effort of managing diabetes can lead to symptoms of depression. Moreover, the complications associated with diabetes can worsen the symptoms of depression and lead to poor lifestyle decisions, thus causing a vicious cycle.
Diabetes and Depression: The Root Causes
Sometimes the demand of managing a chronic lifelong condition such as diabetes can lead to depression. However, according to studies, it is astonishing to see that both diseases are more likely caused by the same factors. These include:
- Family history
- Coronary artery disease
Please note although it is most likely that a person with diabetes is diagnosed with depression, it can be vice-versa. A person diagnosed with depression can too have a chance of developing Type-2 diabetes.
Diabetes and Depression: Managing the Two Conditions Together
The treatment of diabetes and depression together needs a combination of medication and therapy. However, certain lifestyle changes too can help in combating the conditions. Here are a few ways to manage both conditions at the same time:
Indulge in self-care management programs
Certain diabetes programs help you in focussing on behavioural changes such as improving metabolic control, manage weight loss, increase fitness levels, and reduce cardiovascular risk factors. Working on yourself will help in increasing motivation and give a feeling of self-control, thus improving your overall well-being.
Many anti-depressant medications can help you in fighting depression. Such medicines help you in relieving the symptoms of depression or anxiety that is present. It is essential to complete the due course of medication as prescribed by the doctor. Moreover, if you experience the symptoms to persist, it is advisable to consult your doctor for a different anti-depressant medication or a different plan. However, do not forget to discuss the side effects of any medicines you take. This is because anti-depressants have been found to have severe hypoglycaemic effects causing problems to self-care.
Psychotherapy is an effective way to fight depression. Also known as talk therapy, it helps in reducing or managing the symptoms of depression. There are several forms of psychotherapy available, including interpersonal therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. It is best advised to take consultation of a doctor to decide which therapy works for you.
In general, psychotherapy helps in:
- Recognizing potential triggers
- Identifying and replacing unhealthy behaviours
- Developing a positive mindset towards managing diabetes and depression
- Promoting healthy problem-solving skills
It is well known that exercise can help in relieving stress by releasing the ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin and endorphins. In addition to this, any form of physical activity helps in triggering the growth of new brain cells in a similar manner as anti-depressant medications.
Physical activity or exercise can also help in diabetes management by reducing weight and blood sugar levels. Moreover, it also helps in increasing your stamina and energy. Apart from exercise, other lifestyle changes that need to be included for managing diabetes and depression together are:
- Eating a balanced diet; provide good nutrition to the body
- Focussing on a regular sleep schedule; the hours of sleep one gets to play a crucial role in mental and physical well-being
- Working on reducing or improving stressors
- Seeking help and support from family and friends; don’t be embarrassed or afraid to seek help from friends/family
It is important to consult a doctor for treating diabetes and depression. However, studies have shown the benefits of having a diabetes educator in the process of diabetes management. A diabetes educator not only helps you in making better lifestyle decisions but also in motivating you to fight both the conditions together.
Diabetes and depression together can take a toll on a person’s well-being. Therefore, it is essential to look out for the symptoms and get proper treatment before it is too late. On World Mental Health Day 2019, let us all pledge to take good care of our mental well-being as well as of others in the coming years.