My mother was a type 2 diabetic for the last 20 years of her life. She also suffered from depression. I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a definite link between her rising blood sugar and her plummeting mood.
In today’s blog post we’re going to take a deep dive into the connection between diabetes and depression. SPOILER ALERT: It’s messy and scientists don’t quite understand how all of it works.
While more research is needed to understand the exact connection between depression and diabetes, it is very clear that there is a strong connection. Here’s what scientists and health experts have pieced together so far:
A Change in Brain Chemistry
It is believed that changes in brain chemistry as a result of diabetes may bring on symptoms of depression. For instance, should areas of the brain be damaged from neuropathy or blocked blood vessels, the result could be changes in mood and anxiety levels.
Emerging Health Problems
We also need to consider that emerging health problems that come along with the development of diabetes may make a person depressed. Having to suddenly deal with chronic pain and fatigue, multiple doctor’s appointments, and managing blood sugar can be a toll on a person’s emotions. Not to mention the emotional toll of more serious complications from diabetes such as kidney failure, loss of vision and amputation of limbs.
There is also somewhat of a vicious cycle that happens to many diabetics. Symptoms of depression creep in, which makes it harder to successfully manage their diabetes and prevent complications, resulting in complications, which results in a worsening of their depression and health outcomes.
A 2011 study found that people with type 2 diabetes who also experienced symptoms of depression had higher blood sugar levels. A separate 2011 study suggests that individuals with both diabetes and depression are 82 percent more likely to experience a heart attack.
People with Depression are More Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes
We know that type 2 diabetes is the result of poor lifestyle choices. Eating processed foods high in carbohydrates and leading a sedentary life lead to obesity and insulin resistance, which, if left unchecked, lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
When people are depressed, they often make choices that aren’t the best for their overall health. They may turn to comfort foods like breads, pastas, and baked goods. Depression also tends to make someone feel exhausted, making exercise anything but a priority.
When symptoms of depression are not dealt with, and poor lifestyle choices are continually made, the development of type 2 diabetes is often the result.
Symptoms of Depression
Whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or not, it is important to be aware of the most common symptoms of depression so you can seek treatment. Doing so will help you prevent diabetes, or at least prevent further complications of your disease.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, please seek help:
- No longer enjoying experiences and hobbies you once did
- Inability to fall asleep or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite or eating too much
- Poor focus
- Feeling anxious and nervous
- Having suicidal thoughts
It’s important to mention that poor management of diabetes can also bring on similar symptoms. As an example, when blood sugar becomes dangerously high or dangerously low, the person may experience feelings of anxiety, insomnia, or extreme fatigue. It is not uncommon for people to think they are depressed, when in actuality, they are type 2 diabetics that have yet to be diagnosed.
Either way, experiencing one or more of these symptoms is definitely reason to make an appointment with your doctor who can determine whether your symptoms are the result of poor diabetes management, depression, or a combination of both.
Important Lifestyle Changes
Getting a handle on type 2 diabetes and depression starts with getting a handle on your overall health. Regular exercise not only helps you lose weight, preventing or reversing your type 2 diabetes, but it also releases “feel good” chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin and endorphins. Additionally, this activity then triggers the growth of new brain cells in the same manner as antidepressant medications.
Eating healthy foods that are not laden with trans fats and sugar with help you keep your blood sugars nice and stable. It’s important to eat healthy foods that are low in sugar also because sugar can really interfere with your brain chemistry, which can lead to feelings of depression.
Seek Help from Experts
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, not all doctors are on the same page. Sadly, many old school doctors still believe that those who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will remain dependent on prescription insulin their entire lives. While they believe lifestyle factors played a big part in the development of the disease, they somehow reject the idea that different lifestyle factors could reverse the disease.
But some doctors know the REAL truth of reversing type 2 diabetes, and are helping their patients do it every single day.