Type 1 Diabetes and Depression
Did you know that there are two types of diabetes? Most people think that diabetes is something their grandma has because she would eat too many sweets. Although, there is a type of diabetes that is seen in older adults and it has to do with being overweight, there is another type previously known as "juvenile diabetes" which is seen in children and young adults (I'll talk about the differences between type 1 and 2 in another post)
Some info about Type 1 Diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body not able to make insulin (the hormone that controls sugar in your body), which is why sugar levels go through the roof. Early recognition and proper care of the sugar level can help reduce the risks of the complications of diabetes...which are seen mostly in people who don't have proper control and management. Since the person develops it earlier in life that means there will be longer time for uncontrolled diabetes to be damaging.
I got a chance to talk with 17 year old Skye to learn how it was for her when she was diagnosed.
Dr. Hector (that's me): How did you feel when you were first diagnosed?
Skye: I was more confused and upset, because I just wanting to know why this had to happen to me. Today I’m very proud to have type 1 diabetes and no longer feel confused or upset. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me and every other Type 1.
Dr. Hector: What did you do to feel better emotionally?
Skye: I surrounded myself with people who love and care about me and wanted to help support me. Music at the time and still today put me in a state of comfort.
Dr. Hector: Did it take you long to change your eating habits and get used to using medications?
Skye: It actually didn’t take me too long to change my eating habits. I’ve always had a generally healthy life style from the food I eat to the physical activity I do. Medication wise, it was different, but not impossible. The first night I was diagnosed I actually wanted to give my own pen injections because I was so interested and I found that to be the next step to accepting that I had diabetes.
Dr. Hector: Did you struggle at the beginning, and do you still do today?
Skye: At first I did struggle because I had to regain all of the weight I had lost and I wasn’t quite sure still what I had to do to stay healthy. I wouldn’t say I struggle with it today but it definitely can be a challenge some days due to the new technology that’s coming out and just having to adapt to it or having those occasional wacky blood sugar numbers. For example I just received the new Medtronic 670g pump and there are so many new and amazing features that I have to adapt to! It gets frustrating something but I know it’s for the better.
Dr. Hector: What do you do to cope with the changes?
Skye: I cope with this by telling myself that this is my normal and that one day there will be a cure. That I’m healthy and things can be worse.
Recent studies have shown that diabetes type 1 can also be damaging to the mental health of the person. Some healthcare providers do agree that depression is common in anyone with chronic diseases, but studies have shown that those with diabetes have a much higher risk of becoming depressed...they don't know why exactly but they think that it can be because there are specific stressors associated with diabetes in young people.
Diabetic specific stressors:
feeling of isolation or being alone: since this condition is only seen in 5-10% of the diabetic population
feeling overwhelmed - there are lots of things young people have to be dealing with and on top of that having to learn a whole new lifestyle of choices to manage their blood sugar levels
worrying about the physical complications can be very stressful on a young person
loss of control - since this is a pretty complex condition, sugar levels fluctuate a lot so at the beginning
bullying - bullying can take many forms and can come through school work and online
Some signs of depression to watch out for:
not wanting to do things that you used to enjoy
sleeping too much or sleeping too little
eating more or less (which can be mistaken by diabetes too)
feeling down all the time
wanting to harm yourself (contact your physician right away if you are feeling like this)