Experiencing depression is not an inevitable consequence of diabetes.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
July 2010 — There is an increased likelihood of a person experiencing depression if they have diabetes. When you examine what life is like living with the disease, this isn't surprising. Having diabetes means that you lose a lot of your personal freedom. You have to test your blood sugar multiple times per day and adjust the level of insulin you take accordingly. You need to monitor what you eat carefully, and many people with diabetes also count all of their carbs (and not for a limited time like someone who is on a diet, but as a lifestyle). You also have to be aware that all physical activity will affect your blood sugar, usually by lowering it, but many times it will go up. And frequently this will happen on an unpredictable delay following your activity.
You will need to perform all of the above tasks on a regular basis in front of a variety of people daily-many who will be supportive and many who will be insensitive and judgmental about your abilities and assumed limitations. People at your school, work, gym, in restaurants, malls and anywhere else that you would encounter other people will see you testing or giving yourself insulin. You will constantly be exposed to a number of people asking your questions about what you are doing and why. But even worse, many won't ask and will instead make assumptions about what you are doing and what it means in terms of your health and abilities.
You will have to plan for diabetes and diabetes related lows, highs or complications constantly. You will carry an emergency glucagon kit with you at all times in addition to testing supplies and the items you need to administer your insulin or change your pump site. You will also need snacks and glucose tabs. Any time you are going to be somewhere that you don't control when the food will be served like going to eat at a friend's house, out to eat, to a picnic, party, wedding or event, you will need to make sure you are prepared with your snacks or sugar source.
So do we really wonder why people with diabetes are experiencing depression more often? Maybe the best thing that those of us with family members with diabetes can do is to be supportive, listen, and not pretend that we know how difficult it is to live with diabetes when we truly don't. We can support them by also encouraging them talk with other people with diabetes or attend a diabetes support group so they are able to talk to other people who are experiencing the same things they are. It is understandable that people with diabetes are more frequently experiencing depression, but it doesn't have to be inevitable. And there are definitely steps that friends and family members can take to improve the chances of depression not becoming an inevitable consequence in the life of the person who has diabetes.
Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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