What's the connection between diabetes and depression? How can I cope if I have both?

Answer From M. Regina Castro, M.D.

If you have diabetes — either type 1 or type 2 — you have a higher risk of developing depression. And if you're depressed, you may have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes. The good news is that diabetes and depression can be treated together. And effectively managing one can help with the other.

How they're related

Though the relationship between diabetes and depression isn't fully understood:

  • Managing diabetes can be stressful and lead to symptoms of depression.
  • Diabetes can cause complications and health problems that may make symptoms of depression worse.
  • Depression can lead to harmful life decisions. These can include unhealthy eating, less exercise, smoking and weight gain. All of these are risk factors for diabetes.
  • Depression can make it hard to do tasks, communicate and think clearly. This can make it difficult to successfully manage diabetes.

Managing the two conditions together

  • Diabetes self-management programs. Diabetes programs that focus on behavior can help people control their metabolism, improve fitness levels, and manage weight loss and heart disease risk factors. These programs can also help improve your sense of well-being and quality of life.
  • Psychotherapy. Similarly, people who participate in psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, can improve their depression. This can help them better manage diabetes.
  • Medications and lifestyle changes. Medications — for both diabetes and depression — and lifestyle changes can improve both conditions. Options include different types of therapy along with regular exercise.
  • Collaborative care. Treatment supervised by a team of providers that increases therapy when needed helps improve both depression and diabetes. This type of care may not be available in some health care systems.

If you have diabetes, watch for symptoms of depression. These can include loss of interest in typical activities, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and unexplained physical problems such as back pain or headaches.

If you think you might be depressed, seek help right away. Your health care provider or diabetes educator can help you find a mental health provider.

With

M. Regina Castro, M.D.

Aug. 16, 2022