We know that people with diabetes have an increased risk of depression. Researchers have suggested that depression may be the result of certain chemical changes in the brain that are linked to the regulation of mood. Depression is also often observed in families, which may mean that genetics may play a part. Other factors may work together to increase the likelihood of developing depression.
Risk factors for depression can include:
- Having a family history of depression
- Having depression at least once before in your life
- Having another mental illness, like bipolar disorder
- Taking certain medications (like corticosteroids and some drugs prescribed for hypertension)
- Having a sleeping disorder
- Social isolation
- Abusing drugs and alcohol
- Relationship problems
- Experiencing the loss of a close friend, family member or partner
- Other experiences of loss, such as unemployment or relationship breakdown
- Poor physical health, or a serious or long term illness such as diabetes.
- Some people are at more risk of becoming depressed, such as teenagers and the elderly.
What are the symptoms?
Depression is easy to misdiagnose because it can present with a wide variety of symptoms that may be general in nature, such as insomnia (being unable to sleep) or fatigue (extreme tiredness).
Different people may present with different symptoms.
Some of the signs of depression may include:
- Feeling very sad or unhappy, feelings of emptiness
- Not finding pleasure in anything
- Withdrawing from friends, colleagues or family
- Being anxious or always worried
- Not tending to your responsibilities
- Having low energy levels
- Denying depressive feelings
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Becoming easily irritated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty motivating yourself
- Stomach upsets
- Headaches, backaches and other complaints that are not normally experienced and have no obvious cause
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Losing interest in activities or people you would usually be involved with
- Weight loss or gain and/or loss of appetite
- Loss of sex drive
- Not paying attention to personal hygiene and appearance as you would do normally
- Thoughts of suicide
It’s important for you and those close to you to understand that depression as an illness can be treated and that it is often a short-term experience. Men in particular are more likely to focus on the physical symptoms of depression and not the feelings or emotions that come with it. Treating physical symptoms and not the cause of an illness can be very ineffective and may lead to years of misery and more complicated health issues. Recognising and acknowledging that you may be suffering from depression is an important first step in living a happier life.
Getting help for depression and diabetes
You are not alone.
There are plenty of opportunities to get help if you think you may suffer from depression or if you are close to someone who has depression. If you have diabetes and depression it is important you speak with someone who understands both of these conditions.
Here are some other places to get started:
- Your doctor – your GP is always the best place to start. Have a good chat with them and be honest about your feelings and symptoms and when they started. If necessary they can refer you to a specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
- Beyondblue, the national depression initiative, can help with the depression side of things and can be contacted on 1300 224 636.
- Mensline Australia offers 24-hour, anonymous support for men with family and relationship problems especially around family breakdown or separation. They can be contacted on 1300 789 978.
- Lifeline offers 24-hour counselling, information and referral. Call them on 13 11 14.
- Lifeline’s Just Ask offers help for people who live in rural areas and can be called on 1300 13 11 14.
Remember that depression, just like diabetes, can be managed and in many cases, you can recover from depression. Make the most of your life and seek help if you think you may be experiencing a problem with your diabetes or your wellbeing.