Diabetes and Depression Often Go Hand in Hand

Proper management of one disease can help reduce risk of developing the other

Allen HeadshotDAYTON, Ohio (October 9, 2014) – People with diabetes have a greater risk of developing depression than those without the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association Off Site Icon.

A new diagnosis of a long-term illness such as diabetes can weigh heavily on an individual. For many, it means a drastic change to lifestyle. This includes the new responsibility of monitoring blood sugar levels multiple times a day and administering medications appropriately, not to mention changing the way one eats or thinks about daily exercise, said Joseph Allen, MD, with Family Medicine of Vandalia.

“Diabetes and depression are both very common diseases and often overlap,” Dr. Allen said. “Many times people will be diagnosed with diabetes and shortly thereafter go through a depressive episode, which is true of any medical diagnosis that carries a long-term change to a person’s life. A diagnosis of this magnitude often cues a person to think about their mortality in a way they never had before.”

Approximately 10 percent of Americans have diabetes. That figure jumps to 23 percent among adults over the age of 60. About 6.7 percent of Americans are affected by a major depressive disorder each year, according to the Archives of General Psychiatry Off Site Icon.

The stress of daily diabetes management can be a lot for individuals and often builds over time. An inability to properly control blood sugar levels can make a person feel hopeless. Many people with diabetes may feel alone or set apart from their friends and family because of the extra work. Potential complications that come from diabetes – including damage to the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nervous system, feet and skin – can compound and drive a person further within themselves, the ADA said.

It’s important for diabetics to know depression’s warning signs, which include loss of pleasure, change in sleep patterns, change in appetite, trouble concentrating, loss of energy, nervousness, guilt, morning sadness and suicidal thoughts. The ADA encourages diabetics to talk to their doctor if they are experiencing any of these signs because poor control of the disease can cause symptoms that mimic depression, the ADA said. High or low blood sugar, for instance, can make a person feel tired or anxious. Low blood sugar levels can also lead to hunger and disturb one’s sleep.

Dr. Allen often sees depression in those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes since it is the type that is often diagnosed later in a person’s life. Type 1 diabetes – where a person’s pancreas does not produce insulin – is usually diagnosed during childhood. These diabetics tend to deal with the emotional strain of the disease at an earlier age. Type 2 diabetes develops when a person’s body is unable to use insulin properly and can be a result of poor lifestyle choices, Dr. Allen said.

Research reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine Off Site Icon suggests that the link between the two diseases is bi-directional, suggesting that depression can also lead to diabetes. The report was based off a study conducted on more than 65,000 females between the ages of 50 and 75 – a portion of which were diagnosed with depression. The 10-year study showed that women with depression had a 17 percent higher risk of developing diabetes even after researchers ruled out certain risk factors such as body mass index and physical activity.

The link between the two diseases continues to strengthen, but hope remains for those who struggle with one or both diseases, Dr. Allen said.

“Some of the best treatments for diabetes are also the best for avoiding or beating depression – physical activity and diet,” he said. “Studies have shown that physical activity is just as effective as medicine in treating depression.”

For more information on diabetes or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit www.premierhealthspecialists.com

Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.