Type 2 Diabetes and Depression: Is There A Link?

 

 

Having type 2 diabetes can take its toll, as various aspects of self-management can become overwhelming and cause feelings of hopelessness. It’s completely normal to experience times of sadness from time to time, but long periods of sadness and anxiety can lead to depression. Type 2 diabetes and depression come from a distinct psycho-social need that develops from this life-long condition, impacting relationships, social life, and overall psychological well-being. These personal costs are heavy and have a consequent effect on the overall quality of life. Even with constant monitoring, it can lead to poor control over type 2 diabetes, causing depression and diabetes to mingle in unhealthy ways.

 

But what are the links between diabetes and depression? How do factors such as insulin, high blood sugar, and other symptoms of diabetes lead to signs of depression? Here, we’re analyzing the details behind this association, learning about what the latest studies say about depression and diabetes, and submersing ourselves into what you can do if you’re diagnosed.

 

What Is Major Depression?

 

Depression is a mental disorder that involves many systems within the body, including the immune system. This condition can disrupt sleep cycles, interfere with appetite, and cause weight loss or weight gain, depending on the conditions underlying alongside it. Most often accompanied by other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression is a complex disorder that’s origins remain elusive. There is no single cause for depression, as it can occur for various reasons and have numerous triggers.

 

According to the NHS, the downward spiral of events can often cause depression, including stressful events, family history, and substance abuse. Depression can have varying degrees of severity or can be a specific type of depression that occurs due to genetics, childhood experiences, and other life events, including:

 

Dysthymia: A mild form of depression that often lasts for several years

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a type of depression that occurs due to the seasonal patterns, most often occurring during the fall and winter months.

 

Postnatal Depression: In more specific circumstances, this form of depression is experienced by mothers after having a baby, and in some cases, some mothers may experience antenatal depression during pregnancy.

 

Even while many cases of depressive disorder result from environmental factors, some studies attempt to centre their studies around the physical and genetic factors related to major depressive disorder and have found related associations between physical and genetic alterations in the brain and depression. Because of its complexity and how prominent this condition is, taking a look into how the science behind depression can help us further understand its significance in the structure of our brains and how they interact with longstanding illnesses such as type 2 diabetes.

 

The Science Behind What Causes Depression

 

Depression was initially written off as an imbalance of chemicals throughout the brain. However, some studies have cited that how depression functions could potentially be influenced by genetics, as researchers found an association between depression and genetics. This association states that depression could be a hereditary condition passed down through our genes. In some cases, studies on the prevalence of inherit-ability in identical vs non-identical showed a higher percentage of depression gene expression due to how identical twins share 100% of their genetic code.

 

Some studies cite that depression is related to brain connections and cell growth. According to one study from the University of San Francisco, by looking at the methylation patterns of DNA, or how DNA chemically modifies gene expression, the changes that occur as we age differ for those who commonly experience depression. In this study, people with major depressive disorder experienced a significantly higher rate of cellular ageing, suggesting an increased mortality risk.

 

Other studies even attempt to track the physical aspects of depression when assisting professionals trying to diagnose depression through magnetic resonance imaging, citing that brain region alterations happen in those with a major depressive disorder to areas such as the frontal lobe, hippocampus, and temporal lobe. These brain connections overlap in certain areas, ultimately creating a “hub” that contributes to disease severity for those with major depression.

 

The Links Between Diabetes And Depression

While the pathophysiology of depressive disorders is complex and changeable, one essential note to take in is that some people are at a higher risk of depression if they have a longstanding or life-threatening illness, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes and depression have similar symptoms, including exhaustion, difficulties concentrating and sleeping a lot. These symptoms often create high personal costs for those with type 2 diabetes, impacting relationships, work-life, and overall well-being.

 

But how they interrelate with one another depends on the genetic and environmental factors playing into that person’s physical and mental health. Many researchers suggest that having diabetes doubles your risk of developing depression. Along this pathway of correlation, if diabetes-related health problems emerge, then that person’s risk of depression can increase even further through avenues such as:

 

Insulin: Insulin and depression have been shown to be involved on a neurological level. Insulin resistance, considered to be the pinpoint of type 2 diabetes, could develop more prominently in the brains of depressive patients. According to one study from the Centre for Neuroscience Studies, the molecular mechanisms controlling insulin receptors in the brain can trigger depressive and anxiety-like behaviours, causing behavioural responses that regulate the insulin signalling system.

 

High Blood Sugars: In other studies, the relationship between mood and blood sugar was associated with a lower quality of life among women with diabetes. According to the 2017 study, the study found positive associations between high blood sugar and depression, among other common mental disorders. The rise in high blood sugar through a diet of carbohydrates and added sugars was concluded to exaggerate the insulin response and cause long-term effects on psychological health.

 

Prediabetes: As the precursor to diabetes, prediabetes and depression can also go hand in hand, as insulin resistance associated with prediabetes can significantly develop a major depressive disorder. According to the study, the higher ratio of triglycerides to high-density proteins was associated with an 89% increase in developing major depression. The study implies that the increase in insulin resistance, a condition that often precedes type 2 diabetes, doubles the risk of depression in at-risk individuals for type 2 diabetes.

 

Through the combination of insulin resistance, high blood sugars, and the onset of prediabetes, depression and diabetes correlate in unusual ways. By looking at the connection from the reverse point of view, depression can potentially cause type 2 diabetes due to its various symptoms and outside environmental factors that connect depression to other chronic conditions, including:

 

Lifestyle Factors: As the most often sourced cause for type 2 diabetes, poor lifestyle factors related to poor diet and inactivity, leading to a higher risk of this condition alongside other conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and mental disorders. According to this collection of studies, diets rich in saturated fats and refined sugars can contribute to the risk, while eating fruits and vegetables with avoidance of sugars and carbs can decrease the risk. Alongside that, poor physical activity can result in an increased risk for depression when compared to those who regularly exercise.

 

Sleep Disturbances: Disruption in sleep patterns are commonly associated with depression, and poor sleep quality and altered circadian rhythms are also associated with increased insulin resistance and the risk for type 2 diabetes. Through this study, insufficient sleep has been shown to compromise insulin sensitivity and raise blood pressure. Habitual poor sleep cycles can eventually lead to insulin resistance and decreasing glucose utilization as a result.

 

Poor Adherence To Treatment: Alongside poor diet, exercise and sleep, having a lack of adherence to treatment recommendations for depression, including antidepressants and therapies, can contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes. Through these studies, researchers found a 10% increase in risk to those who avoid healthy dieting and foot care due to the onset of depression, resulting in an increase in blood glucose and poorer self-care behaviours.

 

Ultimately, one final study showcases the relationship as bidirectional, moving both ways as their influences connect between lifestyle risk factors, disease occurrences, and genetic and environmental factors that influence both conditions. Overall, the links between diabetes and depression show that the association between depression and diabetes depends heavily on the severity and treatments for each condition. Other factors, including age, genetics, and cultural differences, play a significant role in how both of these conditions develop and affect individuals. These studies can ultimately remain inconclusive about these links, as the association depends on these numerous factors.

 

How To Cope With Diabetes and Depression

 

Even while these two conditions can affect one another, it’s essential to pay attention to type diabetes type 2 symptoms and depression symptoms to treat them effectively. Because depression often goes undiagnosed or untreated, those with type 2 diabetes may experience difficulties seeking medical advice due to the adherence to medications and diet regimens that reduce the quality of life. However, addressing depression among those with type 2 diabetes is a vital component towards helping people with these chronic illnesses to improve their quality of life.

 

For those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, speaking with your GP about the symptoms you’re experiencing and understanding the differences between type 2 diabetes symptoms and signs of depression can help you receive the treatment you need. This includes:

 

Avoiding Medications: Avoiding diabetes management can lead to complications, including gum disease, nerve damage, heart attacks, and diabetic feet.

 

Inactivity: Inactivity can cause problems for diabetic management, as exercise is vitally important for both physical and mental health

 

Overeating: Overeating can cause blood sugars to rise, leading to hyperglycemia attacks and diabetic ketoacidosis.

 

Feeling Down For Long Periods: Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, struggling to concentrate, and moving slowly are some common signs of depression, which can be addressed and treated alongside type 2 diabetes.

 

Suicidal Thoughts: Thoughts of suicide are common for those who have depression, as this disorder can lead to destructive behaviour and avoidance of self-care.

 

Discussing symptoms with your GP can further help address the severity of those symptoms and the types of treatments available to you. This includes asking questions about little interest in doing things, feeling down, hopeless or depressed throughout the last month or few months you’ve been through. If you have these symptoms for two weeks or more, coping with either of these conditions can make them both worse and create a vicious cycle of shame, guilt, and fear.

 

When it comes to treatments for major depression alongside type 2 diabetes, managing both conditions can be extremely difficult. However, speaking with a health professional is the best method you have for tackling these conditions and giving yourself a healthier outlook. Through speaking with a healthcare professional, they recommend numerous treatments, including:

 

Antidepressant Medication: Antidepressant medication can help control symptoms of major depression and boost brain chemicals such as serotonin to help liven your mood. Through speaking with your GP, you can find the right antidepressant for you.

 

Therapy Talks: Some therapy sessions, including cognitive behavioural therapy, can help provide techniques for recognizing behavioural patterns, negative thoughts, and low moods and work to change them when they happen.

 

Diet & Exercise: Combining diet and exercise with your medications and therapy can help stimulate your body, give your body the proper nutrients, and provide substantial benefits to your overall health. Through working with your body’s needs, you can mentally and physically adjust your perspective and gain an overall better relationship when managing your type 2 diabetes.

 

Talking with a professional is an essential part of caring for your body and mind, allowing you to manage your type 2 diabetes and depression more easily. For further help, contacting Diabetes UK’s helpline can help you get information and advice on all aspects of living with type 2 diabetes and other health conditions that may affect it.


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