Depression and Diabetes: A Cycle Which Can Be Broken

Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

By Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

Chronic illness can increase the likelihood of depression three fold. Depressed states of mind are more common in those suffering from diabetes, and this is completely understandable considering the difficulties and dangers of the disease. But this link between the “two d’s” should be something that diabetics,  and their friends and families, understand in order to help combat any change in mood, and to identify the tell tale signs of depression before they get worse.

Depression and Diabetes

Depression is the most prevalent mental health issue in the world, and when it occurs it can reduce a person’s motivation to manage their diabetes. That’s why it’s so important to counteract depression or prevent it where possible.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression has a number of different symptoms associated with it. They can appear in various combinations, with some not appearing at all in one individual, while severe in another. Depression is therefore a varied illness which can take many forms and occur at different severities.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness which lasts for more than two weeks.
  • Persistent feelings of apathy.
  • Empty, lifeless emotions.
  • Feeling powerless to change your life.
  • Erratic sleep patterns including oversleeping or insomnia.
  • Anxiety which persists.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Dwelling on dying, suicide or illness.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Difficulty remembering things.
  • Feelings of restlessness.
  • Low energy.
  • Intrusive thoughts.

If a combination of these symptoms persist for a few weeks, then there is a good chance that you are suffering from depression. There are various types of depression, and most are actually quite mild even though the experience can be painful and profound at the time. Depression can be combated and will diminish over time if the correct steps are taken.

Depression Affecting Diabetes

While diabetes and facing the reality of altering your lifestyle can bring about depression, it is simply a cycle, as depression in turn can then make your diabetes worse. With feelings of hopelessness or apathy, you might want to avoid taking positive steps to help your situation. Furthermore, this can turn to an unhealthy pursuit of fattening or sugar rich foods, or perhaps even smoking and alcohol to try to relieve negative emotions. All of which can exacerbate diabetes and its symptoms drastically. As the symptoms get worse, so does the sense of depression, which then worsens the diabetes and the cycle continues.

There is also research which suggests there is a more direct interaction between depression and diabetes. For example, those with both conditions have reduced metabolism and inhibited glycemic control which then increases the symptoms of depression.

Treatments for depression can also worsen diabetes. Anti-depressants can also impact blood sugar control making it harder for a person to control their condition.

Treating Depression and Diabetes

Treating Depression and Diabetes

Because there is a negative interaction between both conditions, it is more than possible to affect one condition in a positive way and therefore impact the other. There is significant research which shows that by combating depression, blood sugar control will improve, as will the quality of life of the patient.

Depression can be managed and the eradicated by:

  • Exercise: This will not only help to combat your diabetes, but will also naturally promote positive feelings and moods due to the release of endorphins.
  • Talking: Whether it is to a counsellor, doctor, family member, or friend, talking about depression vents the stress and anxiety associated with the condition. This can hugely improve the symptoms of depression, and will help you to work through the root cause of your depressive state of mind.
  • Diet: Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains can improve your sense of well being, while giving you the energy you need to overcome apathetic tendencies. Speak to your doctor about the fruit intake to manage your sugar levels.


Positive Steps One Day at a Time

Diabetes and depression are difficult conditions. But both can be managed, and by improving your health and state of mind, you can overcome these issues and enjoy a much improved quality of life.

Have you experienced depression as a diabetic? Please do share your story with us in the comments section below.


Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

Dr Kethu is a practicing Gastroenterologist. He is a healthcare and real estate entrepreneur. He writes frequently on topics related to health care, healthy living, and physical fitness. He is the author of Amazon’s best-selling book, “The IBS Guide”. He is an avid marathon runner and is on track to finish his 100th marathon in 2024.

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