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Diabetes and depression have a close and complex relationship. People with diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience depression than people without diabetes, and depression can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes and are experiencing depressive symptoms, understanding the link between depression and blood sugar is critical for supporting your health.
The Impact of Depression on Blood Sugar
Depression is not a single condition. Rather, many mood disorders feature depressive symptoms, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. Regardless of the underlying cause, the symptoms of depression may include the following:
- Feelings of emptiness
- Loss of pleasure or interest
- Change in sleep patterns
- Trouble concentrating
- Change in appetite
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty making decisions
- Excessive feelings of guilt
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts
- Withdrawal from groups and/or activities
Many of these symptoms make it harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, getting regular exercise, and even attending medical appointments can quickly fall by the wayside when someone feels depressed. As a result, people with depression are more likely to live sedentary lifestyles, experience obesity, smoke, suffer from sleep disruptions, and eat unbalanced diets—all of which can negatively affect blood sugar levels and may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
In addition to the impact of depressive symptoms themselves, certain medications used to treat depression may contribute to elevated blood sugar levels or diabetes. Depending on the specific medication, this may be due to weight gain, insulin resistance, or metabolic abnormalities such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and excess body fat around the waist.
For people already diagnosed with diabetes, depression can make it more difficult to stay on track with treatment. Depressive symptoms often interfere with the following:
When your ability to follow your treatment plan is compromised, you’re at higher risk of more significant blood sugar fluctuations.
How Diabetes Management Supports Mental Health
The relationship between depression and blood sugar is a two-way street. The stress of living with diabetes and experiencing health complications can contribute to depressive symptoms. Evidence also suggests there may be a biological connection between diabetes and depression. Although the exact nature of that connection is not fully understood, researchers have found that high blood sugar affects neurotransmitter activity (the activity of certain chemicals in the brain) and that people with fluctuating glucose levels (glucose variability) are at increased risk of depression. As a result, successful diabetes management may alleviate depressive symptoms and support overall wellness.
Many of the lifestyle changes recommended for controlling blood sugar can also improve mental health. They include the following:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Practicing mindfulness
- Managing stress
If you are experiencing depressive symptoms, however, you may not be able to rely on lifestyle changes alone. It’s essential to seek the guidance of a mental health professional to create a comprehensive treatment plan, just like you do for diabetes.
A collaborative approach can help you treat diabetes and depression as effectively as possible. Ideally, your healthcare providers should consult with each other to ensure that your treatment plans are compatible and appropriate for all aspects of your health.
Using Technology to Create Stability
New technologies are making diabetes management easier. While this can profoundly benefit anyone living with diabetes, it may be particularly valuable for people who struggle to stay on track due to depression.
One-step Blood Glucose Monitoring
Automatic blood glucose monitors, such as the POGO Automatic® Monitor, provide a fast way to check blood sugar levels without the hassle of a traditional blood glucose meter. POGO Automatic is a one-step solution that lances and collects blood automatically at the push of a button. With POGO Automatic, lancets and test strips are built into 10-test cartridges, which means you don’t have to keep track of multiple components. Instead, you can check your blood sugar discreetly virtually anywhere and have results in seconds. This can make it easier to stick to your monitoring routine, even when your energy levels are low.
Easy-to-use Tracking Apps
The Patterns® for POGO Automatic app is an easy way to keep track of your blood sugar as well as other daily health variables, such as carb intake, medication use, hydration, and even moods. Patterns integrates seamlessly with other wellness apps and devices and presents information via easy-to-understand visuals. This simple glucose monitoring app is great for understanding not only blood glucose trends but the relationships between blood sugar, depressive symptoms, and other factors that affect your physical and emotional well-being. Such insights can help you and your healthcare team fine-tune your treatment plan and create meaningful strategies for better health.
Need more support? Consider signing up for a diabetes coaching program. With one-on-one coaching, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists provide you with personalized guidance on nutrition, exercise plans, and stress management. You get access to monthly check-ins and educational resources that complement your treatment plan and can help you remain on course.
Give Yourself Your Best Chance
If you’re living with diabetes and depression, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Allow your healthcare team to collaborate and create a treatment plan that works for you. With the tools and support to care for your physical and emotional health, you will be empowered to manage your depression and blood sugar in the best way possible.