Diabetes Type 2

Depression, feeling down and mood swings

People with diabetes are approximately two to three times more likely to experience depression as others (National Institute for Clinical Excellence - NICE - Guidance CG91 2009). Yet there is little routine psychological support for people with diabetes.

Some people we talked to said they felt depressed when they were first diagnosed and could only see a bleak future ahead of them. However as they adapted to the changes to their lifestyle and started focusing on what they could do to improve their health, the feelings of depression passed. One woman with young children said, “Certainly depression lurks around, but having control over the disease, being able to control my diet, or to choose to go out and exercise is enormously important for getting over that kind of depression.”

Although some people said they had not experienced feelings of depression and were naturally positive thinking people, other people actively had tried to be positive, as they coped with changes to their lifestyle. One man who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 38 years old said, “I decided at the beginning that I was not going to let it control me. You've got to control it. You can't let it control you.” Another man said that he can understand how people might feel depressed at first, if they didn't realise that with the right support they could lead a normal life. 

Some people said they felt low or 'down' rather than depressed on some days when their diabetes seemed to take the joy out of life. Sometimes needing to follow a diet, take drugs or injections every day or experiencing sexual problems made people feel fed up with their situation. 

Poor blood glucose control had also affected some people's moods. A few people talked about feeling tearful and irritable and then happy and laughing when their blood glucose levels went up and down. 

Some people experienced clinical depression which was hard to overcome. People who were clinically depressed said it felt like 'a black fog' or a 'blackness' came over them. Sometimes stress from work or family life tipped them over the edge, and people found it difficult to cope with diabetes. One man said that when he is not feeling depressed, he finds it much easier to eat healthily, but when he is depressed he comfort eats.

Antidepressants or talking therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy or counselling helped people cope with depression. Different people react differently to antidepressants, and sometimes it takes time to work out which drug works best. Several people we talked to were taking fluoxetine (Prozac) for depression and found that it worked quite well for them. One man who suffered from clinical depression before being diagnosed with diabetes, said,  “Medication seems to make it a lot easier than it was. It stops the tears but it doesn't stop the blackness.”

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Many GP practices now have counselling services attached to them, and if not your GP may be able to refer you to a service. If you want to get in touch with a trained counsellor directly, you can call the Diabetes UK Careline. See more experiences of depression.

Last reviewed March 2016.
Last updated March 2016.





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