Diabetes can be a hard pill to swallow. One day you are going about your normal routine and the next day you’re diagnosed with diabetes and your world is flipped upside down. Everyone is telling you what you need to do or telling you what you can or cannot eat. Has this ever happened to you? On top of that, now you have to worry about taking medications, monitoring your blood sugar, what you should and shouldn’t eat and more. It can be very overwhelming! But, even if you have had diabetes for a while it can still be overwhelming or feel like too much weight to bear at times.
Did you know that one in four people with diabetes has some form of depression? What if I told you there is a more mild mental health issue that affects more people than depression? It’s true. Diabetes distress affects 18-45% of people with diabetes at any given time. This condition is described as the point where the emotional burden and stress of living with diabetes manifests in physical ways such as fatigue, tension and burnout. Along with this extra stress can come anxiety. Adults with diabetes have increased rates of anxiety compared with adults without diabetes. This anxiety can stem from things such as a fear of needles, fear of hypoglycemia, guilt associated with eating certain foods and more.
Although depression gets a lot of attention, diabetes distress and anxiety are just as serious and can have a huge impact on your health. One study found a direct correlation between diabetes distress and elevated hemoglobin A1C- meaning the more distressed someone was, the higher their hemoglobin A1C would be.
Pictured are two handouts from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). One is about depression. It describes the common symptoms of depression and has a two question screening tool. At the bottom, there is a link for the PHQ-9- a tool used in most physicians’ offices to rate levels of depression.
The second is about diabetes distress. It contains great information describing distress and how to deal with it. At the bottom of the second page, there is a questionnaire to help you identify if you have diabetes distress.
I encourage you to read both handouts and possibly use one or both as screening tools. Most importantly, if you identify with any of the feelings listed, speak with your healthcare provider. Your provider can help you develop a plan, talk about treatment options or refer you to a counseling service. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health especially when you have a chronic disease like diabetes.