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Diabetes and Depression

Mar 26, 2013

I attended an interesting presentation today on depression.  There has been a lot of discussion on the relationship between diabetes and depression. Particularly, on which comes first – does the diabetes cause depression or does the depression cause diabetes? 

According to the speaker, depression is a medical illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.  It can affect how you feel, think and act.  Depression can contribute to problems in doing normal day-to-day activities.  It is a chronic illness that may require long-term treatments.

Based on those comments, I can see how depression might lead to diabetes, especially if the depression affects the type of foods and how much a person eats – many people eat when depressed.  I have had many of my patients tell me that food is their friend or that eating is their hobby.  I am sure you have all heard the term “comfort food.”  I don’t know what you consider your comfort food but for most people it does not include salads or steamed veggies.  I actually have had some people complain when taking some of the newer, non-insulin injectables that they did not like them because they could not eat as much.  I tried to explain to the patient that the basic idea of those drugs was to curb their appetites.

Back to the depression connection, there are a variety of factors which can contribute to depression. As an example, loss can cause depression. This can include grieving over a death, breakup or job loss. Any of these things could lead to more serious bouts of depression making it more difficult to deal with the day-to day issues of life.

Drugs and alcohol can also upset the chemical balance in the brain.  Abuse of drugs and alcohol can lead to an episode of depression or, sometimes the person turns to drugs and alcohol in an effort to deal with the pain.

Depression can be a side effect of medications used for high blood pressure, chronic pain or cancer.  Chronic illnesses can make people feel frustrated or sad. Some health problems, such as hypothyroid, can be mistaken for depression so it is important to do lab work to rule out physical problems.

If you have patients or family and friends who are not taking proper care of themselves, not taking their medications as prescribed or have any of the symptoms described above,  you might consider discussing the possibility of depression with them.  Other symptoms may be the inability to concentrate or remember details, not being able to sleep or perhaps sleeping all the time, or the inability to meet the responsibilities of their work or caring for family.

Encourage those exhibiting signs of depression to seek help. Some options may be psychotherapy or talking with a professional talk about causes and explore with them some possible solutions.  Sometimes medications or working on developing a healthier lifestyle may help.  The important thing is to seek appropriate help.

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