diabetes and depression

Just like so many things right now, the relationship between diabetes and depression isn’t fully understood.

I think it’s so interesting the more I have studied mental illness that it’s a disease just like diabetes. My husband had diabetes and we were not embarrassed to tell anyone he had that. He was highly perfectionist and that’s a “personality” so why is it so hard to say someone has depression? I think our problem was we didn’t even know he had depression. There wasn’t much information about depression 10 years ago. We researched diabetes, and he went to his annual doctor appointment but his feelings of being “low” most of the time were never discussed. With his diabetes, his sugar lows and highs became his norm. He had stress and frustration because he was always monitoring his sugar- taking his blood sugar about 10 times a day and then troubleshooting- trying to take a shot with the right amount of insulin for what he guessed his blood sugar count was at. Every time he was depressed I shrugged it off as this is what comes with this disease. I didn’t even think back to before he had the disease at 26 there were huge signs of depression. So he had depression before, then with the diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes at age 26 of course the depression would build.

Studies have shown that people who have Type 1 Diabetes have a higher risk of depression/suicide than the general population. People with Type 1 diabetes are twice as likely to develop Major Depressive Disorder. It is a disease that can take a toll on your mental well-being.

The American Diabetes Association posted this about depression and suicide:

Spotting Depression

Spotting depression is the first step. Getting help is the second.

If you have been feeling really sad, blue, or down in the dumps, check for these symptoms:

  • Loss of pleasure €” You no longer take interest in doing things you used to enjoy.
  • Change in sleep patterns €” You have trouble falling asleep, you wake often during the night, or you want to sleep more than usual, including during the day.
  • Early to rise €” You wake up earlier than usual and cannot to get back to sleep.
  • Change in appetite €” You eat more or less than you used to, resulting in a quick weight gain or weight loss.
  • Trouble concentrating €” You can’t watch a TV program or read an article because other thoughts or feelings get in the way.
  • Loss of energy €” You feel tired all the time.
  • Nervousness €” You always feel so anxious you can’t sit still.
  • Guilt €” You feel you “never do anything right” and worry that you are a burden to others.
  • Morning sadness €” You feel worse in the morning than you do the rest of the day.
  • Suicidal thoughts €” You feel you want to die or are thinking about ways to hurt yourself.

If you have three or more of these symptoms, or if you have just one or two but have been feeling bad for two weeks or more, it’s time to get help.

Depression can look different in a teenager. Teenagers who are depressed can have:

  • Declining school performance
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Anger, agitation, and/or irritability.
Also note, depression can be related to age and life events such as loss of a job or a loved one. A family history of depression increases the risk, as does having low self-esteem and low social support.

Getting Help

If you are feeling symptoms of depression, don’t keep them to yourself. First, talk them over with your doctor. There may a physical cause for your depression.

Poor control of diabetes can cause symptoms that look like depression. During the day, high or low blood sugar may make you feel tired or anxious. Low blood sugar levels can also lead to hunger and eating too much. If you have low blood sugar at night, it could disturb your sleep. If you have high blood sugar at night, you may get up often to urinate and then feel tired during the day.

Other physical causes of depression can include the following:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Thyroid problems
  • Side effects from some medications

Do not stop taking a medication without telling your doctor. Your doctor will be able to help you discover if a physical problem is at the root of your sad feelings.

Mental Health Treatment

If you and your doctor rule out physical causes, your doctor will most likely refer you to a specialist. You might talk with a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse, licensed clinical social worker, or professional counselor. In fact, your doctor may already work with mental health professionals on a diabetes treatment team.

All of these mental health professionals can guide you through the rough waters of depression. In general, there are two types of treatment:

  • Psychotherapy, or counseling
  • Antidepressant medication


Psychotherapy with a well-trained therapist can help you look at the problems that bring on depression. It can also help you find ways to relieve the problem. Therapy can be short term or long term. You should be sure you feel at ease with the therapist you choose.


If medication is advised, you will need to consult with a psychiatrist (a medical doctor with special training in diagnosing and treating mental or emotional disorders). Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who can prescribe medication and treat physical causes of depression.

If you opt for trying an antidepressant drug, talk to the psychiatrist and your primary care provider about side effects, including how it might affect your blood sugar levels. Make sure that the doctors will consult about your care when needed. Many people do well with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

If you have symptoms of depression, don’t wait too long to get help. If your health care provider cannot refer you to a mental health professional, contact your local psychiatric society or psychiatry department of a medical school, or the local branch of organizations for psychiatric social workers, psychologists, or mental health counselors. Your local American Diabetes Association may also be a good resource for counselors who have worked with people with diabetes. for more info.