Has diabetes left you feeling down? It might be depression. Or it might be diabetes distress.

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2014-08-30 20:38:02 -0500
Started 2014-08-18 16:02:03 -0500

If you’re living with diabetes, you probably know what it’s like to have those days when managing your diabetes is just seems like too much work. Like when your numbers are still not where they should be. Or you’re asking yourself if you can take those diet restrictions one more day. Maybe you’re having to switch to another regimen.

Living with diabetes is not an easy road. And it’s not uncommon to hit a stretch where you feel like diabetes is kicking you around and not about to let up anytime soon. When that happens, a lot of emotions come up. Feeling sad, disappointed, maybe even kind of hopeless. No wonder it’s not uncommon for people living with diabetes to also be diagnosed with depression.

But is it depression? Recent research has led healthcare professionals to take a second look at what it means when diabetics experience depression symptoms. Dr. Lawrence Fisher, of the University of California, San Francisco, lead author of an important new study, uses the term “diabetes distress” to describe symptoms of depression that might be the result of the challenges of living with diabetes and not what professionals have been diagnosing as depression.

Essentially, the research on diabetes distress is concluding that it is normal to experience feelings like sadness and frustration when you are living with a chronic condition like diabetes. And if it’s normal, then the diagnosis of depression may not always apply.

Here’s a link to an article I recently wrote for Diabetic Connect:


What’s it been like for you? Do you think you have experienced diabetic distress at some point? Have you talked to your doctor about feeling down? How has the conversation gone? Have you received any additional emotional support?

38 replies

sandyfrazzini 2014-08-25 10:41:33 -0500 Report

I think I agree that there is a definate difference between distress and depression, I just don't know where I am or or what it is I am going through lately. I really am at a point where I don't care if I take my insulin or not and I don't care what my blood sugar is and so I just am not testing like I should. I know I am not doing what I need to do and that is frustrating too. I keep trying to get back on track but I just don't want to do anything, lately all I want to do is sleep.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-27 20:07:15 -0500 Report

HI Sandy,

It sounds like you are feeling really down. The symptoms you mention -- not caring and sleeping a lot -- can be signs of depression, especially if they have been going on for awhile. I encourage you to talk to your doctor about this or reach out to a mental health professional. Don't wait. Take good care of yourself!


rolly123 2014-08-21 13:23:28 -0500 Report

Today I'm discourage about my sugar they not doing good still in the 150 to 179 that was this morning!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-27 20:00:09 -0500 Report

HI rolly! So sorry to hear this. I hope you are doing better today!

rolly123 2014-08-27 20:23:49 -0500 Report

Dr Gary
I'm doing better! Working on counting carbs!! I went to Ditian who helped me understand my meds and some carbs!! I'm going therapist work on my food issues! Thanks

elizag1 2014-08-21 12:31:18 -0500 Report

I have not walked as much as I want to in the mornings but, I also go in and check in with my Mom who is 92…I use weight exercises at home and, I cannot lose weight, just the opposite of not being able to gain…I also have a thyroid problem but, I think I just need to walk more with the dogs in the morning..that makes me feel a lot better.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-21 13:20:42 -0500 Report

Hi elizag,

Nice to see you! One of the ways to cope with diabetes distress is to have a proactive plan in place to help avoid it. Sounds like that's what you are doing. Exercising, taking the dogs out... all good ways to help maintain your optimism.



lorider70 2014-08-21 11:54:43 -0500 Report

My feelings tend to go to the frustration/anger side. Despite my "numbers" being good; I cannot gain a pound (currently 5'9", 132 lbs). Most days the neuropathy is terrible, muscle weakness, leg /foot pain and loss of feeling…the list could go on. Dr is no help; he thinks weight is fine, loss of strength came with age (71). I'm almost tempted to chuck all the meds and see what happens…can't be too bad unless I throw diet to the curb too.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-21 13:16:54 -0500 Report

Hi lorider,

Sorry to hear you are so frustrated. And I can understand why with all that you are living with right now. But I hope you will continue to work closely with your doctor and not stop your medication on your own. Would it help to consider a second opinion?

Take good care of yourself!


lorider70 2014-08-21 18:02:12 -0500 Report

Dr. Gary: Thanks for the response and advice. I have been with the Same Doctor since 1989 when diagnosed. I am very wary of changing at this point and would rather get him to change his methods a bit rather than start jumping from one physician to another. I am not fond of change of any kind unless good results are guaranteed. I also do not want to get into dealing with multiple heath care people. I have always stuck to what has worked for years and never allowed myself to live to a meter, or visit 3 or 4 different Doctors. ai have my 3 month visit next Friday and we will discuss my concerns at length to try and find some answers other than "old age"

JSJB 2014-08-20 10:07:28 -0500 Report

Every now and then I get a little depressed when my BS's are a little high or I gain a few pounds because I slipped back and the temptation got the best of me but I just say Joe you have to try a little harder

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-20 14:22:11 -0500 Report

Hi Joe,

Thanks for sharing this. Those rough spots can kind of creep up on you. And giving yourself a pep talk can help to get through them. But also I hope you will reach out to your friends here on Diabetic Connect when you need some support. Good to see you!


Tessazevedo 2014-08-20 07:53:22 -0500 Report

This is such useful information. Thank you so much. Now to share it with others who will now understand and not feel alone.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-20 14:20:37 -0500 Report

Hi Tessazavedo!

Nice to meet you. I am glad you are here. And thanks for your kind words. I am so glad this was helpful.

I hope you will stay in touch with us!


Suzze 2014-08-19 18:25:30 -0500 Report

Thank you for this thread. It helps to know others experience these levels of depression. I can't wait to share information on this with my husband. I'm sure it will help him understand some of the daily struggles of diabetes. I'm not excusing the moods, I'm trying to understand and share that with my spouse.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-19 22:06:27 -0500 Report

Hi Suzze,

You are welcome. It's great to know this was helpful for you. Information is power. And a great idea to educate your husband so that has a better understanding of what you're dealing with.

Thanks for checking in!


ReaderReader12 2014-08-18 21:34:31 -0500 Report

Thank you for this post and your article. I think I first experienced diabetic distress and it was partly due to not letting anyone know that I had diabetes. So trying to wrap my head around it and then the thought of telling people was just to much or so I thought. After about a year, I had to start letting people back in my life. That was the best thing I could have done for myself.

I have support and my partner was the one who found this DC site for me. That is pretty amazing. She printed out the cook book and I use so many of the recipes from that cookbook and from this site. We are eating so much better than I ever, EVER thought I could. I am making changes in my life, and I am stunned just about every single day that yes it is me.

I will never go it alone again…it just is not a good plan. I am proud of myself for all the changes and I can see myself eating this way the rest of my life. Movement is coming back into my life and it feels good. However menopause and the fact that I feel I could burst into flames at any minute does not feel so great. The sweat just happens all of a sudden. Sorry this is the wrong site for that vent. Ha ha.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-19 22:01:50 -0500 Report

Hey ReaderReader,

So glad to see you again. And I'm really glad this was helpful to you.

You make a great point here. Support is power. Living with diabetes can be a rocky road at times, and it's a whole lot easier having people in your life who can give you emotional support. Humans aren't meant to go it alone.

Really glad to hear you have such a supportive partner. That's excellent. She sounds like a gem!

Congratulations on making such great strides. All because you have been taking good care of yourself.

And always feel free to vent! About anything you need to vent about. There's always somebody here who can relate to whatever it is you're dealing with.

Thanks a lot!


GabbyPA 2014-08-18 20:36:31 -0500 Report

I have to agree with this. Sometimes I think doctors are too quick to give us another pill. Having a diagnosis of depression on your records is hard to shake down the road, so I am glad that some doctors are looking at it as being just a point of frustration with a long time management.

I find I get more stressed when other things are piling up as well. (Like right now) Loss of a pet, deadlines with clients not being met, more work than I can manage and everyone clamoring for dinner, laundry and everything all at once. When I get in this kind of mess....my management is just as overwhelming. I will get out of it with determination, discipline and help...but it's crappy when I am drowning in it.

The thing that depresses me most is my doctor. I get mad at myself or frustrated with other things, but he has gone from helpful to no help at all. To the point, I have dumped him and am looking once again for a doctor. It makes my management harder, but less depressing really.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-19 21:49:09 -0500 Report

HI Gabby!

I like you new picture! And thanks for checking in and adding your wisdom and experience here.

I really appreciate your post. You said it better than I did. Some doctors are quick to diagnose depression and, as a result, may overtreat. What is ironic to me is that I have worked with psychiatrists who were hesitant to diagnose what was most likely distress as depression, which a non-psychiatrist may latch onto the depression label more quickly.

Distress is temporary and directly related to those dips that inevitably spring up along the road. Getting support, taking a step back and looking at what we need to do to get things back on track, can help us to move out of the distress.

You used the word determination. A great word here! When someone is experiencing depression, finding that inner determination can be impossible, let alone exercising it. And that's when it's time to reach out for treatment.

Really sorry to hear about your doctor problem. It's always disappointing when healthcare providers move from helpful to unhelpful. There is so much in life that we don't have control over, but when you do, jump on it, right?

Thanks again, my friend.


GabbyPA 2014-08-21 06:51:37 -0500 Report

Clutter is my sign that I need to "jump on it" for sure. When my work space is cluttered, my mind is cluttered. When my mind is cluttered, things don't get done and I get stressed. So where I can have some control, I try to do it. There are things I cannot control, and if I let that get to me, I'm in trouble.

I am always a little hesitant to tell someone to "buck up" in a time of being down. I didn't understand depression (still don't really) but have seen it's effects of people I love. I like the term "distress" because that is what I think many people have, but don't want to deal with it. Depression is when they can't deal with it or have not learned how.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-21 13:08:55 -0500 Report

It is always interesting me how our outside environment can reflect what's going on inside, and how this can lead to a cycle if the outside, in turn, makes us feel worse inside.

And a very good point about distress. It's normal to go through times of distress. Recognizing that we are in distress, and taking steps to help ourselves, is the starting place for dealing with it. And yes, I wish it was as easy as "bucking up." Good point. But a few words of kindness, and the offer of a listening ear, can go a long way with someone in distress. Like you always do so well!

Kats49 2014-08-18 19:35:12 -0500 Report

Thank you for the article, very helpful and I like the term diabetic distress…mainly because the down doesn't last too long for me. It's that "stinkin thinkin" one has to worry about…iI consider that the adversary trying to get me to doubt myself. I went through about a year of depression after the death of my husband…so I think I know the difference. I also read a great article by Robert Sapolsky who is a professor at Stanford. "Biology that makes us tick." More informed we all are the easier it is for me at least to make sense of what is going on with my body. Ad the great articles by so many different people here at DC also helps. No denying that at all!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-19 21:25:54 -0500 Report

Hi Kats!

Thanks for chiming in here. That is exactly the point with diabetes distress. It is temporary, and getting educated, taking a look at your self-care plan, and feeling supported can help you to cope during a time when you are experiencing diabetes distress.

And yes, if you have experienced depression, as you said so well, you definitely know the difference. And that's why it's important that the treatment match the diagnosis -- if a diagnosis is even necessary.

So glad you are getting what you need here on Diabetic Connect! This is the place to come if you are wrestling with diabetes distress, and to give somebody else a helping hand.

Thanks again!


RedShine 2014-08-18 19:35:05 -0500 Report

I think diabetic distress is completely normal. I experienced it for a good 3 or 4 years when I was struggling to get my blood sugar down. This was after I came out of the honey moon phase, and I was going into my first year of high school.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-19 21:17:45 -0500 Report

Hey RedShine,

It certainly is completely normal! And something that diabetics often periodically experience. And what you describe here is a good example of diabetes distress. The end of the honeymoon, and a difficult transition.

Thanks a lot for sharing here!


denipink57 2014-08-18 16:35:11 -0500 Report

James said it very well. the idea is to be treated. i am little concerned about what someone labels me with so long as i get the care i need. having diabetes change me life for the better. i am taking better care of myself. it took the diagnosis to give me a well needed wake up call. sure i get depressed or distressed, call it what you will. the point is i am well medicated and i am well cared for. i take an anti-depressant and it is working well for me. i am sure much better off now.


Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-19 21:16:14 -0500 Report

Hi Denise,

I appreciate your response. And I agree, which I hope I made clear in my article. The point is to reach out and get help. But also, to get the help that's right for you.

Really glad to hear you are getting the help you need!


jayabee52 2014-08-18 16:13:08 -0500 Report

Howdy Dr Gary
I am sure I have experienced Diabetes distress sometime since my Dx in 1995, perhaps even several times.

However before being Dx'd with T2, I also had severe depression, so you say potatoe and I say potahto. I really see little to no difference between my depression pre Dx and after Dx. But maybe I am missing something.

I am thankful that I really do not have the severe depression I used to have,

God's best to you

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-08-19 21:09:23 -0500 Report

Hi James,

Thanks for jumping in here. I appreciate your response. The point I was hoping to make is that depression is a psychiatric diagnosis and requires a treatment plan that may include medication. Now, if someone needs treatment for depression, then they should definitely be receiving it. But if they are experiencing general distress, then education and support may be all they need. The point is to get help, I agree. But the point is also to get the help that is appropriate to the problem.

I hope that (at least kind of) makes sense.

Thanks again. And I'm glad you got the help you needed!


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