Diabetes can affect both your physical and mental health.
A diagnosis of diabetes certainly adds a huge emotional weight, which can often manifest as depression, anxiety or some other emotional issue. The same goes for the stress of managing diabetes 24/7.
Recently, Joslin researchers discovered a link between high levels of glutamate (a neurotransmitter in the brain that is produced by glucose) to symptoms of depression in people with type 1 diabetes.
The study showed increased levels of glutamate in the prefrontal area of the brains of such people — an area associated with both higher-level thinking and regulation of emotions. At the same time, the study showed a link between high levels of glutamate and poor glucose control, , and lower scores on some cognitive tests.
We believe that if health care practitioners emphasize good glucose control, it may help reduce the probability that patients with diabetes will also become depressed. Clinical depression is more than the normal response of feeling down for a couple of hours or days. It is more dramatic — taking you down further and longer.
A psychologist would diagnose clinical depression if a patient has five or more of these symptoms for at least two weeks. At least one of these symptoms has to be depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood (feeling sad or empty) most of the day, nearly every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities, nearly every day
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, significant weight gain (more than 5 percent of body weight in a month), or significant decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
- Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much, nearly every day
- Feeling agitated or sluggish nearly every day
- Fatigue or energy loss nearly every day
- Feeling worthless or excessively and/or inappropriately guilty nearly every day
- Diminished ability to think, concentrate or make decisions nearly every day
- Recurring thoughts of death (not just a fear of dying) or suicide, a suicide attempt, or a plan to commit suicide
If you think you fit the above criteria, you should talk with your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental-health professional. Research indicates that professional counseling, sometimes in combination with anti-depressant medication, is a highly effective treatment for depression.
For more information:
- Click here for information on appointments with one of Joslin’s experts on diabetes and emotional health.
- Click here for information on diabetes and emotions.
- Click here for a recent Joslin blog on emotional eating.
- Click here for our other diabetes blogs.
- Click here for Joslin’s diabetes videos.
- Click here for more about the Joslin Diabetes Center.