Diabetes & Depression: How Does Diabetes Affect You Mentally

Sugar in My Bowl: On Diabetes and Mental Health

In addition to its numerous physical health risks, diabetes has been shown to hold a connection to issues of mental health. So how does diabetes affect you mentally? And what can be done to balance its harmful ramifications on one’s well-being? Read on to find out.

diabetes and depression

Diabetes: A Short Primer

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to use or process the body blood sugar (also called glucose). Glucose is a central source of energy for muscle and tissue cells, as well as the brain’s key source of fuel. Diabetes causes an excess of sugar in one’s blood, leading to several, serious health problems. Both genetic and environmental factors have been implemented in the appearance of this condition.

Certain types of diabetes are chronic, while others are potentially reversible. Chronic diabetes include:

Type 1 Diabetes

Once known as juvenile diabetes, this form of diabetes tends to appear during childhood or adolescence, though it can also appear during adulthood. It is a chronic condition, in which the body’s pancreas produces little-to-no insulin, without which glucose cannot enter the cells or take part in their process of energy production.

Current treatments for type 1 diabetes focuses on managing the body’s insulin levels, through diet, exercise, or insulin injection.

One in six adults (73 million) contend with some form of diabetes, with one in three of them being undiagnosed. In 2021, 796,000 deaths were attributed to diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

This form of diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but since both types are now on the rise in childhood and later stages of life, it is no longer referred to as such.

Similar to type 1 diabetes, in type 2 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. Additionally, with type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells are also less efficient in their intake of glucose.

Type 2 diabetes is more common among obese or overweight individuals, and is associated with unhealthy eating, and an inactive lifestyle. It is also more common among individuals of African descent, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics.

As with type 1 diabetes, exercise, eating healthy, and losing weight in a controlled manner can help manage this condition.

Potentially reversible diabetes include:


More of a warning sign, prediabetes signals that one’s current lifestyle is conducive of developing diabetes. It is more common among obese or overweight individuals.

Prediabetes is diagnosed through the detection of higher-than-normal levels of blood sugar that are nevertheless not high enough to warrant an official diabetes diagnosis. Improving one’s health through dietary changes and exercise can help prevent prediabetes from turning into full-blown diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy, and like type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, is more common among obese individuals. Gestational diabetes usually dissipates after giving birth.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms are caused by high blood sugar levels. While those with type 1 diabetes tend to experience quicker and more severe symptoms, those with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes may not have any symptoms.

Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Ketones in one’s urine. A byproduct of breaking down muscle or fat, ketones appear in the urine when there is not enough available insulin
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Irritability and fluctuating mood changes
  • Blurry vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • A higher infection rate, particularly concerning the gums, skin, and vagina

The Physical Health Ramifications of Diabetes

Immune system, nervous system, or circulatory system disorders may all occur as a result of diabetes symptoms.

diabetes patient with doctor

The Mental Health Ramifications of Diabetes

Due to the added stress and health risks it can bring about, diabetes sometimes can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Diabetes and Depression

The co-appearance of diabetes with depression, in particular, has received research attention. Individuals with diabetes were found to be two to three times more likely to also face depression. Additionally, only 25%-50% of those with both conditions are diagnosed, resulting in many cases increasing in severity due to lack of treatment.

Diabetes and Distress

Individuals with diabetes have also been shown to more likely contend with distress. Defined as an uneasiness or disquiet that continues to bother the individual experiencing it, distress can also cause unrelenting worry, a difficulty relaxing, and a longer period necessary to decompress.

Research has found that 33%-50% of those with diabetes also face distress stemming from concern over their diabetic condition. In such cases, the added worry over one’s health, frustration over the need to adhere to a healthy lifestyle, and the concern placed on their own family and friends due to their condition, can all lead to diabetes-related distress.

A Combination of Diabetes, Depression, and Distress

A fairly newly defined subtype of depression, called anxious depression, may appear in tandem with diabetes. This form of depression presents somewhat differently than typical major depression, as it centers around feelings of fear, anxiety, or worry, rather than sadness, emptiness, or a lack of joy.

How to Treat Combined Diabetes and Mental Health Issues

Treating both diabetes and mental health disorders tend to meld into one another, as both benefit from a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and greater social acceptance of seeking treatment through a licensed practitioner.

A beneficial treatment course may also include the reliance on insulin injections to balance one’s glucose levels. Treating mental health conditions, such as depression, distress, or anxiety, can include the following options:


Psychotherapy has been shown to benefit different mental health conditions, with 75% of patients facing a mental health condition reporting an improvement after beginning treatment.


Psychopharmacology has become a pivotal force in the treatment of mental health disorders. Antidepressants, in particular, have been shown to offer symptom relief, though not to everyone finds relief from medication and are deemed treatment-resistant.

Antidepressants can also cause undesirable side effects and cannot be combined with certain other types of medication. For these reasons, it is important to consult with one’s doctor before beginning such treatment.

Medical Device Treatments

Medical device treatment options are quite diverse, with some of the major differences being methodology, efficacy, and safety. Some treatments include surgery, and some are noninvasive. Some have already been recognized by the FDA, while others are still being studied. It is important to consult with a mental health professional when considering a new treatment, and remaining under the care of a professional when beginning treatments.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS™) is an FDA-cleared noninvasive treatment that has been clinically demonstrated as safe and effective to treat depression. Deep TMS utilizes electromagnetic fields to stimulate the neural activity of brain structures found to be related to specific mental health disorders, such as depression and OCD. Deep TMS does not require the use of anesthesia or a lengthy recovery period, allowing patients to incorporate treatment sessions into their daily schedules.

A Combined Treatment Course

Combining different forms of treatment can boost the efficacy of each individual option for a greater overall effect. Research has shown that a combination of Deep TMS and antidepressant medication can improve overall efficacy, providing patients with greater symptom alleviation.