Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

The challenges of living with diabetes can get you down sometimes. When this happens, it’s only human nature to not feel like your usual, optimistic self. Sadness, frustration, or disappointment may set in. You know, that “I just can’t deal with this anymore!” feeling.

In a word: stress!

When the down times happen, you probably have a way of coping. Getting support. Doing things you enjoy. Or just telling yourself that it will pass soon. Finding your way back to your old self.

But sometimes all that sadness seems to just hang on, along with feeling helpless and hopeless. And when it does, you may be experiencing depression.

Diabetes and depression

Research has shown that people with diabetes may have a greater risk for depression. There are a few reasons for that. The daily routine can be a grind and can feel like a lonely road, especially when you are doing everything right and still having trouble keeping your numbers where you need them to be. Poor diabetes control can also result in depression symptoms.

What’s especially dangerous is that depression can interfere with your self-care routine: food choices, staying active, adherence to medication, etc. So feeling like you just don’t care, even for a few hours, can have serious consequences.

Symptoms of depression

Here are nine symptoms of depression:

  1. Feeling like you're under a dark cloud of sadness
  2. Difficulty concentrating
  3. Getting angry easily
  4. Changes in eating habits
  5. Restlessness or fatigue
  6. Being caught up in self-criticism or guilt
  7. Not enjoying the things you normally enjoy
  8. Difficulty sleeping or getting up in the morning
  9. Wanting to stay alone

Helpful steps

Depression not only causes you pain but it also causes pain for the people in your life who want to reach out but don’t know what to do.

If you suspect you may be experiencing depression, here’s what to do:

1. Don’t diagnose yourself. If you have more than one of the symptoms of depression and the symptoms have hung on for a couple of weeks or more, then there is a possibility that you may be depressed. Only a professional can make this determination for you. Take care of yourself by taking the first step to find out for sure. Why live this way if you can do something about it?

2. Talk to your physician. There are a couple of reasons to start with your doctor. First, physicians are qualified to diagnose depression and recommend a treatment plan. But equally important, your physician can assess whether your feelings of depression may be related to the need for better adherence to your diabetes regimen or even changes to it. So this is an important discussion to have. It’s as simple as making an appointment and saying, “I think I might be depressed.”

3. Reach out to a mental health professional. Your doctor might also recommend that you talk to a mental health professional. It can help to talk to a counselor about the challenges you are dealing with and to learn some new coping skills. Your doctor may have a list of mental health professionals that he or she is comfortable with. If not, check your insurance company’s provider list or look into local mental health services. Treatment might include medication for depression, which your doctor can also prescribe.

4. Build some prevention into your routine. Don’t isolate yourself at home. Get out and do something you enjoy, even if it’s only to sit outside for a while in the sunshine or take a walk if you are up to it. Get together with friends and family, even by telephone. Keep your diet on track. And watch your self-talk. Every day, remind yourself of what’s going well in your life!

5. Get immediate assistance if necessary. If you aren’t sure if you can do it any longer, if you are feeling that life isn’t worth living, or have thoughts about suicide, call a mental health professional, or even dial 911, right away.

Depression is treatable. Don’t go through this alone!