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Why Are People With Diabetes At Increased Risk Of Depression?

World Diabetes Day is celebrated every year on 14 November to mark the birth anniversary of Sir Frederick Banting who had discovered insulin along with his assistant Charles Best in 1922. The day is celebrated to raise awareness on this chronic global health issue for its early prevention, as well as, support diabetics to manage the condition well and prevent its complications.

Diabetes prevalence is on a steady rise. As per a report published in the journal Elsevier, the number of people above 18 years and living with diabetes have increased significantly to 400 per cent from 1980 to 2014.

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The study also adds that depressive symptoms or major depressive disorders are twice as prevalent in people with diabetes compared to those without the condition. [1]

However, having diabetes does not necessarily make you prone to depression, considering there are other factors too that increase the risk.

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According to a WHO report, people with both the conditions: diabetes and depression, are more likely to rate themselves with 'poor' health in comparison to people with only depression or only diabetes.

In this article, we will discuss an association between diabetes and depression. Take a look.

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Why Are Diabetics Considered To Be At Increased Risk Of Depression?

1. Psychological trauma

A study says that the prevalence of depression is moderately high in people with prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetics or people with recently diagnosed diabetes, compared to normal glucose metabolism individuals.

This could probably be due to the psychological trauma that comes with the stress of getting diagnosed with a chronic disease that could affect their lifestyle for a lifetime. The tension of living an entire life with diabetes and fear of its complications often leads to depression in these people. [2]

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2. Physical symptoms of diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that causes hyperglycemia or an increase in blood glucose levels every day, unless managed by medications or proper diet and exercise. The elevated glucose levels in the body cause symptoms such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, sleep disturbance, weight loss, feeling of tiredness all the time, inactive lifestyle, very dry skin and many others, that often burden diabetics, leaving them irritated most of the time and making them depressed.

3. Fear of diabetes complications

Diabetes-related complications are much worse than diabetes symptoms. It includes heart diseases, neuropathy, eye problems, kidney diseases, blood-clotting problems and even amputation of the legs, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality. This fear of complications affects diabetics from the beginning and keeps their mental stress high all the time.

Experts say that the fear and anxiousness of complications often takes diabetics more towards it, even if they are managing their lifestyle properly and are at decreased risk. [3]

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4. Treatment of the disease

As diabetes is a lifelong disease with increased prevalence, there are chances of an increase in the cost of diabetes treatment each year. According to a study, in 2017, the annual total on diabetes care in the US was around 327 billion dollars, which was around 2.3 times more than non-diabetics. [4]

Also, in India, the cost of diabetes medicines, diagnosis, transportation, consulting free and hospitalisation comes under direct cost fees, causing increased financial burden on patients themselves. [5] Thus, the cost of treatment and related stress increases the risk of depression in diabetics.

5. Family history of depression

A study mentions that depression largely seems to affect those diabetics who have a history of depressive symptoms or any other mental disorders. The episodes of depression in diabetics are both persistent or recurrent. The study adds that even after successful initial treatment of depression in diabetics, the symptoms seem to recur in around 80 per cent of patients. [6]

Note: In many diabetics, depression is developed as a result of a combination of one or more of the aforementioned factors.

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Other Risk Factors For The Development Of Depression In Patients With Diabetes

  • Being female
  • Being younger in age [7]
  • Less social support or relationships
  • Low income
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Physical impairment
  • Marital status such as not having a spouse
  • Lack of education
  • Smoking habits
  • Presence of other chronic diseases along with diabetes

How To Cope With Both The Conditions?

Some of the treatment methods to cope with both the conditions include:

  • Managing diabetes: It includes programs and behaviours to strictly manage the glucose levels and improve your physical health which could affect the state of mind. The best way is to start with a proper diet and regular exercise/meditation/yoga.
  • Psychotherapy: It includes methods like behaviour therapy, holistic therapy and cognitive therapy that focus on remission of depression with time and give positive treatment outputs.
  • Self-management: Alleviating depressive symptoms is moreover in the hands of diabetics through self-management of the condition. When people are willing and motivated towards their goal, they are more likely to prevent it.

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To Conclude

It is always good to talk to your medical expert during the initial stage on how you can keep yourself fit and away from depressive symptoms, especially when you have a history of the same. Also, stay in touch with your doctor at regular intervals and watch out for signs and symptoms of depression.

Is there a link between diabetes and depression?

Yes, many studies link diabetes to depression. This is because of some of the leading factors like psychological trauma, fear of complications and family history of depression and secondary factors like smoking and poor socioeconomic status.

What percentage of diabetics have depression?

A study published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience says that prevalence of depressive disorders in diabetics is in the general range of 10% to 15%, which is around twice as high as the prevalence of depression in non-diabetics.

Can high blood sugar cause suicidal thoughts?

High blood sugar does not directly cause suicidal thoughts, but may affect the physical and mental state of mind of diabetics and put them at a risk of depression, which if left untreated, can bring them suicidal thoughts. This could be more in people with a history of depression or any mental disorders.