How to Deal with Diabetes and Depression

When anger, grief, and denial are directed inward, they can turn into energy-sapping depression. Not only is this not helpful, it can be debilitating. You need all the strength you can muster to make arrangements for your treatment and get control of your diabetes.

True, it is depressing to be sick, but you are not going to be “sick” for long. Here’s how one woman described her reaction when she found out the results of her glucose tolerance test (in which a series of blood samples are drawn over a period of a few hours to determine how the body reacts to drinking measured amounts of glucose solution): “Everything but the diabetes just fell away. There was nothing in my life but that awful disease and the fact that I could actually die of it. It was totally consuming.”

Diabetes and Depression

This is one way that people experience depression, which has a variety of external and internal symptoms: sadness, crying unex­pectedly and for no apparent reason, irritability, insomnia, de­creased appetite (or compulsive eating), restlessness, boredom, diminished sex drive, lack of interest in appearance and dimin­ished physical energy—sometimes to such an extent that a person ceases to function.

Joyce, a fifty-four-year-old woman, found out she had Type I diabetes. She had a family history of serious illness, as both her grandparents died of heart disease, both her parents now have heart disease, and her father is a diabetic. Joyce had a sort of re­signed hopelessness about her health and her life, and she was scared to death all the time. She was a severely depressed woman.

Joyce was also depressed about other aspects of her life: her romantic partner, her job, and her repetitive daily routine. These were problems before she found out she had diabetes, and they will continue to be problems for her as she attempts to im­prove her health. Because of her lack of energy, caused by the depression, Joyce had a hard time dealing with her diabetes, and every day she put off making changes, she felt more de­pressed. She has, however, finally begun taking psychotropic medication, and consequently feels more hopeful about the future.

If you feel depressed about your diabetes or other issues in your life, take care of yourself by seeing a therapist and working through your problems. Most people who have recently learned that they have diabetes have a lower grade of depression than Joyce. They may feel mired in gloom for a few weeks, but they soon learn to pull themselves out of it. Here are a few ways to combat such feelings:

  • Dress in bright, cheerful clothes. Get dressed every day, even if you don’t have to show up for work.
  • Have plenty of green plants and fresh flowers around. Tend your garden or start one.
  • Engage in a pleasurable activity at least once a day, even if you are especially busy at work. It may be something as simple as sitting in the sun for fifteen minutes and eating an apple, but it has to be something you take pleasure in.
  • Exercise every day. A long walk with a dog (yours or a neigh­bor’s) is calming.
  • Stay in the light as much as possible, especially in winter. Go outdoors on sunny days and keep your indoor environment well lit.

Diabetes and Depression

  • Structure your day so you don’t have huge blocks of time with nothing to do. Depression characteristically feeds on itself; keeping your mind occupied with external activities prevents you from dwelling on depressing thoughts. If necessary, write your activities down on an hour-by-hour basis so there’s al­ways a goal to be accomplished.
  • Plan activities in advance—preferably with other people so that you are obligated to do them.
  • Don’t do things that you know will depress you. For example, if you have heard that a movie is a real tear-jerker, don’t see it. If an article you’re reading is making you feel terrible, set it aside until you feel better.
  • Seek professional help from your medical doctor, a therapist, or a psychiatrist.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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