Diabetes and Depression

March 21st, 2010 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

Important reminder at all times: I am not a medical provider.  If you think you or someone you love is clinically depressed or needs professional help, seek out that help immediately.  Don’t even keep reading—ask for help instead.  Now.  You have everything to lose.

People often ask me if I think there is a link between depression and diabetes.  I typically try to sound sophisticated in my reply, but for the sake of brevity here: you betcha I think there is a link!

However, I do not think there is necessarily a genetic link between depression and diabetes.  I think depression in people and in kids living with diabetes is more situational than chemical, at least at the outset.

Think about it from the perspective of a kid living with diabetes, equally applicable to adults:

  1. Welcome to feeling alone.  Your thoughts are necessarily different than those of your friends.  You are likely the only one in your family who has to bleed before you eat.  You’re also probably the only one who, when you look tired, causes family, friends, and teachers to look at you and worriedly start asking you when you last checked your blood glucose.  You are the one who, at the birthday party, has to look at the size of cake with a whole set of questions beyond “is it the corner piece?!” and you know that if you do score that corner piece, more frosting means more carbs and more insulin.
  2. Welcome to worry.  You know how it feels to be different numbers.  You know that numbers carry value judgments, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.  You know you are looking to get those numbers to be in a range that often seems impossible.
  3. Welcome to anxiety.  What you don’t always know is what will happen to your body when your numbers aren’t in that range.  Sometimes you’ll feel sick for a few hours with a high, or sometimes you’ll feel incredibly weak, shaky, and unable to function when your blood glucose is low.  You do know that your diabetes will get in your way sometimes, you won’t always predict it, and you will want to do something but your blood glucose levels won’t permit it right when you want to do it.  Add that to feeling alone and different, and it’s enough to make any kid anxious.
  4. Welcome to feeling powerless.  You probably learned right off the bat how difficult it really is to achieve the blood glucose goals your medical team set out for you.  Diabetes does require recognizing there are times your diabetes has to take center stage or you risk uncomfortable, embarrassing, even dangerous outcomes. 
  5. Welcome to feeling like there was always something you should have done differently.   One of the worst parts of living with diabetes, for me, is that I am always reflecting on what I did and second guessing my actions.  If I go high or low, I feel like there was something I could and should have done to prevent it.  I’m not even sure how realistic it is, but I know that I still search out the reasons behind almost every glucose reading my meter gives me.

I’m kind of amazed at how great kids living with diabetes do with all of it!!  What a testament to their strength.

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