Commentary: Depression and Type 2 diabetes
Nearly 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, and another 86 million are at risk for developing Type 2.
Those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are confronted with a major lifestyle change that prompts an overhaul of not only the way they eat, but the way they live.
They are required to prick their fingers, test their blood sugar with every meal and, in some cases, take medication.
In addition, they must monitor their diet, portions and physical activity for the day, for failure to keep on top of their blood sugar levels can ultimately mean health problems including damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.
Diabetes management can be a numbers game and a balancing act to stay healthy, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming, frustrating and isolating.
Diabetes can be stressful for the body and mind in which handling the day-to-day stresses of the disease can put those living with diabetes at risk for depression.
About 20% of people living with chronic illness will experience bouts of depression, and this holds true for about 11% of diabetics.
This can position diabetics in a dangerous cycle: Frustration in managing diabetes can trigger depression, and depression can make it difficult to effectively manage diabetes.
Depression can prompt stress eating for some, while others might experience loss of appetite — both of which are detrimental to controlling blood sugar levels. In many cases, depression is a condition that develops over time — an accumulation of unresolved issues and chronic tension.
Loss of motivation and changes in sleep patterns also can hinder the healthy management of diabetes.
Despite these challenges, patients can take control through education and self-care. There are various tools to reduce stress and possibly ward off depression such as engaging in relaxation exercises, joining a support group, exploring new hobbies and taking several moments throughout the day to find ways to ease stress can help lower a patient’s risk for depression.
Even those who might feel they live fairly stress-free lives can benefit from making anxiety-reducing practices part of a daily routine. Practice setting boundaries and communicating feelings. Make a daily investment into learning how to cope with the stress of diabetes can help patients realize healthier lives.
ANA PIMENTEL is a case manager and social worker with the Hoag Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center.