How to cope with diabetes and depression

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Diabetes is a persistent illness that impacts 16 million people in the United States. It seems far easier to develop than it is to eradicate. For some people, there is no hope for recovery. Type I diabetes occurs when a person’s body doesn’t make any insulin — an important hormone needed to provide fuel to the body. This form of diabetes is considered an autoimmune disorder because it occurs when the body attacks the pancreas. It affects around 5 percent of all people with diabetes.

Type II diabetes accounts for the other 95 percent. It occurs mostly in adults, but the proportion of cases being diagnosed in children is continuing to rise alongside the childhood obesity rate. While obesity isn’t a prerequisite for type II diabetes, it is often present. In these individuals, the body doesn’t make the right amount of insulin or use it properly. For this reason, it can be more difficult to manage.


So, where does depression come in? Much of the research implies that the risk of depression may be twice as high in people with diabetes. While depression may simply stem from the psychological effects of being diagnosed with diabetes, it may also be driven by metabolic changes in the brain as a result of hormonal imbalances caused by diabetes, too.

It takes a lot of work to maintain an illness like diabetes. For some people, daily insulin injections and dietary restrictions take up much of their time and energy. This kind of stress kind build on a person’s psyche from one day to the next causing them to become more irritable and to lose interest in activities outside the home and spending time with others.

Developing a recluse nature may further contribute to the development of depression. Diabetes can also interfere with a person’s ability to get adequate shuteye at night. Insomnia is a major side effect of diabetes for many sufferers. Poor sleep patterns can easily manifest into depression or worsen pre-existing cases of it. Diabetes also frequently causes individuals to gain weight — an event that often leads people to feel depressed about their self-image.

Getting Through It

Managing the symptoms of depression is easier said than done in many cases. Depression can be persistent. Even when it goes into remission, as much as 80 percent of people who suffer from comorbid diabetes and depression will experience a relapse of their depressive symptoms within five years’ time.

Much of the treatment protocol for diabetes involves lifestyle changes. Ironically, much of the reason people with diabetes end up depressed is because of these changes that they have such a hard time making and sticking to. Giving up one’s favorite foods, monitoring blood glucose levels throughout the day, getting adequate exercise, and administering injections when needed don’t sound like the end of world. They aren’t, but they are drastic changes for most people who are living in the U.S. and eating the standard American diet.

Fortunately, these changes don’t just benefit diabetes, but depression, too. Yes, it can be managed without antidepressant medications. Exercise is one of the most beneficial resources for both conditions. Meditation can also be highly beneficial, because it lowers cortisol which keeps insulin at bay. This is crucial for the type II diabetic.

Cite this page: Danielle Bosley, "How to cope with diabetes and depression," in, January 30, 2017, (accessed September 29, 2022).