Daily diabetes management can be stressful for people with diabetes. They may feel lonely and emotionally distant from family and friends. Uncontrolled blood sugar level and its related complications (even after strict diabetes management) may lead to a feeling of helplessness. All the above-mentioned factors increase the risk of developing depression in people with diabetes. However, the good news is that both diabetes and depression can be treated together. Effectively managing one can have a positive effect on the other.
How diabetes and depression are correlated: Though the connection between diabetes and depression isn’t fully explained by medical science, there are few factors which suggest that they are interrelated:
• The severity of managing diabetes can be stressful for an individual and lead to symptoms of depression
• Complication related to diabetes can cause health problems that may worsen symptoms of depression
• To counter depression, individuals tend to make poor lifestyle choices – like binge eating, irregular physical activity, smoking etc. — all of which are risk factors for diabetes
• Depression inhibits an individual’s ability to perform certain tasks, communicate and think clearly. This can interfere with his/her ability to successfully manage diabetes
How diabetes and depression can be managed together: Diabetes and depression together can be efficiently managed with few steps mentioned below.
• Diabetes self–management programs: Diabetes programs involving self-management and health coaching can lead to behaviour modification, thereby helping people improve their blood sugar level, increase fitness levels, manage weight loss and reduce other cardiovascular disease risk factors. Patients can also improve their sense of well-being and quality of life with such programs.
• Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy, also helps in managing depression. This eventually helps in better diabetes management as well.
• Medications and lifestyle changes: Medication for both diabetes and depression along with lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), including different types of therapy, can help improve both the conditions.
People with diabetes should watch for signs and symptoms of depression, such as loss of interest in normal activities, feeling of sadness or hopelessness, and unexplained physical problems like back pain or headaches.
Patients must seek medical help if they are suffering from depression along with diabetes. Their diabetologist or diabetes educator can refer the patient to a psychiatrist (or psychotherapist) who can intervene and help them overcome the condition.