Depression, Diabetes, or Both? Why You Need To Know

depression and diabetes

Everyone diagnosed with diabetes (type 2) or depression needs to know there is a link between the two illnesses. One does not necessarily cause the other but the two diagnoses have several symptoms in common, and having both illnesses increases your risk of health problems. If you have one of the diagnoses you may want to be screened for the other.

Depression is a mood disorder evidenced by sustained periods of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia, or over-sleeping
  • lethargy, tiredness
  • thoughts of worthlessness, self harm, or suicide
  • feeling anxious, cut-off, or sad
  • unable to enjoy activities
  • isolation

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin. We need insulin to get glucose (sugar) from the foods we ingest to the body’s cells for energy. When insulin is low, our cells do not have enough glucose to function well and the blood gets too sugary. This causes symptoms such as:

  • excessive thirst or hunger
  • recurring infections
  • fatigue
  • frequent urination

How The Illnesses Overlap

Diabetes and depression have overlapping risk factors which might explain why they are linked. Risk factors of both illnesses include blood pressure problems, not enough exercise, obesity, family history, and coronary artery disease. In several ways, if you are at risk for one of the diseases, you are at risk for the other.

For those receiving a diagnosis of diabetes, a period of adjustment is expected. People often have trouble with sleeping, anxiety, and sadness as they get used to the idea of being diabetic and making unwanted lifestyle changes.

This does not mean the person is experiencing a depressive disorder, but the ongoing stress of managing diabetes might result in the onset of a depression.

It is just as possible depression could trigger diabetes since depressed people tend to eat sugary and fatty comfort foods as a coping mechanism. They also may over or under eat, or have problems getting themselves motivated to shop for groceries.

To confuse things further, there are signs of depression such as irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and restlessness that are symptoms of high or low blood sugar as well.

The Health Risks of Having Both

  1. A report from the CDC states a person doubles their risk of depression if they have diabetes.
  2. Diabetics with depression are more likely to have higher levels of blood sugar than diabetics who are not depressed.
  3. Depressed people have a more difficult time managing diabetic symptoms and the everyday stress which intensifies them.
  4. Those that have depression and diabetes are at a 52% increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

The prevalence of both illnesses is on the rise in the West, and though there may be no causative link between them, the health risk of having both diagnoses is worth a conversation with your doctor.

Resource: American Diabetes Association


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