3 September 2013 Diabetes Diary: Are You Feeling Distressed or Depressed?

Anyone with diabetes is familiar with the burden and increased stress of living with a chronic disease that can be costly, uncomfortable, time-consuming, and at the very least, a nuisance. The distress caused by having diabetes is not depression, and it is helpful to identify when you need more support with your diabetes management and when you need to be treated for depression. And like depression, there is research that shows a relationship between diabetes distress and less optimal diabetes control.

I decided to write a post about diabetes distress after reading “Depression, Diabetes Distress, and Diabetes Self-Management: Progress & Persistence.” This informative article was written by Joseph B. Nelson, MA, LP, CST and published in the September 2013 issue of AADE In Practice.

Diabetes Distress Scales

To screen yourself for diabetes distress, you can first take the short 2-item survey. This screener was copied from Australia Department of Health & Aging’s website.

Listed below are 2 potential problem areas that people with diabetes may experience. Consider the degree to which each of the 2 items may have distressed or bothered you DURING THE PAST MONTH and circle the appropriate number.

Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes. Points = ____
Feeling that I am often failing with my diabetes routine. Points = ____

  • Not a problem = 1 point
  • A slight problem = 2 points
  • A moderate problem = 3 points
  • A somewhat serious problem = 4 points
  • A serious problem = 5 points
  • A very serious problem = 6 points

If your answers add up ? 6 points, then you could be experiencing diabetes distress. In that case, take the time to complete the slightly longer survey – it is only 17 items. As with the screener, the 17-item screener Australia Department of Health & Aging’s website. Calculating your score is simple: add up your total points, divide by 17, and if your average score is ? 3, then you are likely experiencing diabetes distress. Print the questionnaire and bring it to your doctor. Your answers can help guide the discussion regarding how to best support your diabetes self-care. If your family is involved, then include key members in this discussion too.

What about Depression?

Maybe you have a feeling that something is just not right. Perhaps you have lost interest in activities you used to love. Or maybe you have completely stopped managing your diabetes since you do not see the point in trying. These could be signs of depression.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of depression than those without diabetes. Sometimes the symptoms of poor blood glucose control can seem like depression. It is not always easy to tell the difference. If you have diabetes, then take a minute to use WebMD’s depression screener. If the screener shows risk for diabetes, please talk with your doctor about options. Your doctor might refer you to a health care professional that specialize in depression. Or your doctor might speak with you about possible medication options if depression is confirmed through clinical assessment.

Get Care – Don’t Ignore It

If you are experiencing diabetes distress or suspect you have depression, please share this with your doctor so that you can get appropriate care. Doing nothing will not make it better – it will likely make matters worse. For instance, if your blood glucose readings keep getting worse over time (or your A1C blood test is rising), it is likely affecting your mood and ability to make clear decisions. So don’t wait – get help now.

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, please consider using MyNetDiary’s Diabetes Tracker app for iPhone. It is an excellent tool to help you manage your diabetes. For more information about how to use Diabetes Tracker, please read my article at MyNetDiary. Also, “Diabetes Basics” is a very helpful article on the basics of diabetes management.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Diabetes/Health

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