Depression and Diabetes

By Christina Psaros, Ph. D
Clinical Fellow in Psychology 

Depression is a serious health problem, and people with Diabetes are about twice as likely to experience clinical depression as the general population. Everyone experiences sadness at some point. Clinical depression, however, is more than just feeling sad. Individuals who are depressed may feel sad, and they may lose interest in or find it hard to enjoy things they used to (like hobbies or other pleasurable activities). They may also notice changes in their sleeping and eating patterns—some people may eat or sleep more than usual, while others may lose their appetite or have trouble sleeping.  Depression can also make people feel as if they do not have energy to do things, like managing their Diabetes.  People with depression might also have a hard time making decisions or concentrating, and feel badly about themselves. When depression is at its most serious, people may think about harming themselves, or even consider suicide.

 Depression alone is a significant health problem, but it is even more serious for people with chronic medical illnesses, like Diabetes. Research has shown that people with Diabetes and depression find it harder to do things to manage their Diabetes (checking their blood sugar, exercising, making healthier meal choices, etc) than people without depression.  And because some of the symptoms of uncontrolled Diabetes like sluggishness or difficulty concentrating are also symptoms of depression, it is sometimes difficult to identify whether feeling bad is caused by depression, Diabetes, or both.  So, people with diabetes may not realize that they are depressed, and their doctors might not realize it either. For this reason, it’s very important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms, and tell him or her if you think you might be depressed.  

The good news is that depression is highly treatable, with medication, therapy, or both. Because depression and Diabetes so often exist together, some researchers at MGH are conducting a study to see if a form of counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy (or “CBT”) can help adults with Diabetes and depression. If you think you may be experiencing depression, talk to your health care provider.  They can help manage your symptoms, or put you in touch with someone who can. If you would like to learn more about research opportunities for adults with depression and Diabetes, call 617-726-7458.



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