Just a Little Down…or Depressed?

Having diabetes doubles your risk of depression. Here’s how to tell if you’re feeling depressed, and what you can do about it.

Maria Lissandrello
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Counting carbs. Checking your blood sugar levels. Juggling good days and bad. No doubt, living with diabetes adds plenty of to-do’s to already busy days. So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, maybe even a little blue at times, it’s not unusual. But if those blues don’t seem to fade, if every day is becoming more of a struggle, depression may be the culprit. Turns out, people with diabetes have twice the risk of depression as those without the condition, according to a study published in Diabetes Care

How can you tell the difference between a bad spell and true depression? UCLA psychiatrist Judith Orloff, MD, author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, says to watch for these warnings:

  • Going through your daily routine is becoming a burden; everyday tasks feel overwhelming.
  • You find it increasingly difficult to be in the company of close friends and even your family; it’s difficult to express love and affection like you used to.
  • Physical symptoms, like heart palpitations, heartburn and difficulty sleeping are more common.
  • There’s a running script of negative messages in your head—phrases like I’m not good enough or I’ll never be successful or I’ll never find love.
  • Your brain is in a fog, and you just can’t focus.
  • You feel hopeless, helpless and generally unworthy.

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about these feelings as soon as possible. The reason? Not only can depression take a toll on your emotional well-being and quality of life, it can also disrupt your diabetes care—after all, it’s hard to make healthy choices and be careful about monitoring when you’re in a fog. And with many types of effective treatment available, there’s no reason for you to suffer.

Help for depression
In addition to following the treatment plan you and your doctor agreed upon, taking a few lifestyle steps may improve your mood:

Add activity to your day. Any physical activity helps trigger the release of feel-good endorphins. Gentle, continuous movements, such as those used in tai chi and yoga may be especially beneficial. (Make sure to get your doctor's approval.)

Set small goals. When you are depressed, ordinary tasks may seem daunting. Instead of doing all your chores, try taking on just one to-do: Make one phone call. Write one email. Wipe one countertop.

Eat well. Complex carbs, citrus fruits, leafy greens and lean sources of protein like chicken and fish should be mainstays of your diet.

Reach out. You may feel like isolating yourself, yet sharing your feelings with someone close to you can keep you engaged.

Tame stress. Identify the activities that help relax you, whether it’s taking a long bath or petting your cat, and include them in your day. And try defusing anxiety on the spot by taking several slow, deep belly breaths.

April 2013