Depression-Diabetes Alert: What You Need To Know


If you have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, it is a good idea to be screened for diabetes. Similarly, should you have diabetes, you might think about getting checked for depression. The reason for this caution is that depression and diabetes are linked.

One connection between diabetes and depression is positive; both are illnesses that no one wants to manage, but they can be managed.

There are steps you can take to reduce the discomfort and impact of their symptoms. Although adjustments in lifestyle are necessary and annoyance is inevitable, many people with either diagnosis continue to pursue fulfilling lives.

Diabetes Basics

Your body produces the hormone insulin. The job description of insulin is to haul sugar (glucose) from the food you’ve eaten into your body’s cells. The cells burn sugar for fuel to accomplish whatever it is a particular cell is meant to do.

If your body does not respond to insulin according to nature’s regulations, or if it does not produce enough insulin, the sugar you consume stays in the blood stream and causes:

  • frequent urination
  • increased hunger or thirst
  • recurring infections
  • fatigue, anxiety, irritability, restlessness

Diabetes-Depression Overlap

Four signs of diabetes are also standard symptoms of depression:

  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • restlessness

The two illnesses share some risk factors as well:

  • blood pressure problems
  • family history
  • obesity
  • inactivity
  • coronary artery disease

Because the illnesses overlap, it is easy to mistake a sugar imbalance for signs of depression (lethargy, irritability) or to have both illnesses and not realize it. If given the diagnosis of one, it is wise to have a doctor screen for the other.

Diabetes-Depression Cautions

If you feel depressed after receiving a diagnosis of diabetes, it is likely a temporary reaction to some disturbing news. Difficulty sleeping, sadness, and anxiety are normal responses to discovering you have an illness. As you adjust your lifestyle and learn to manage diabetes, the depressed feelings should subside within a few weeks. If not, see your doctor.

Should you become depressed, you may find yourself eating more or less food than previously. There may be a tendency to consume comfort foods, which are frequently simple carbohydrates (i.e., french fries) or sweets. Even without a history of diabetes, this change in eating habits will naturally affect your body’s blood sugar level and insulin production.

Four More Important Facts

  1. The incidence of both diabetes and depression is increasing in western societies.
  2. People who have both diagnoses are at 52 percent higher risk for heart attack or stroke. Should you have both illnesses, ignorance is not bliss. Both need to be managed well.
  3. The CDC reports that having diabetes puts an individual at twice the risk of developing depression, and depression naturally makes diabetes management more difficult.
  4. Diabetics who are depressed tend to have higher blood sugar levels than those diabetics without depression.

Fortunately, there is another positive link between depression and diabetes that bodes well for symptom management. They both improve using similar techniques: good nutrition, simple or vigorous exercise, healthy sleep, social engagements and a good laugh.

Symptoms of depression: fatigue, lethargy, sleep problems, anxiety, sadness, isolation, appetite changes, problems concentrating or focusing, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, hopelessness, thoughts of death or suicide.

Source: American Diabetes Association


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