When Michelle Kowalski, 33, of Mexico, Mo., was diagnosed with diabetes, she was furious. She was angry with herself for getting diabetes. And she resented all the changes she had to make in her life.
"I'm sort of a perfectionist, and so I guess having something wrong with me, and having other people tell me 'This is what you need to eat, and this is how you should exercise,' I wanted to punch them all in the face," she says. "I suspect that lot of people who get a health diagnosis that's not ideal get angry."
Depression is twice as likely in people with diabetes as in those without it.
However, depression can rob you of the ability to cope with the disease. People with diabetes who are depressed are less likely to follow their diabetes plan, often resulting in more complications and a greater likelihood of hospitalization than those who aren't depressed.
One study published in 2005 by the American Diabetes Association found that people with diabetes who were depressed were nearly 2.5 times as likely to die during an eight-year period than people with just diabetes alone.
"Diabetes and depression really go together. When people get depressed, they don't really focus on how they eat and how they structure their lives. Diabetes is a condition that requires scheduling, planning, and being proactive about when you're going to eat," says Margaret Savoca, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
"If you have a tendency to get down about stuff, that's when you get out the box of chocolate and binge on ice cream."
Some mental-health providers have experience with chronic health problems, and can help you cope with feelings that might get in the way of managing diabetes.
Getting help if you feel depressed
The Behavioral Diabetes Institute is one organization that helps people with diabetes deal with psychological issues, and the American Diabetes Association also lists books on psychological well-being.
Also consider visiting a diabetes support group. You may find it therapeutic to talk about your challenges with other people who understand them, and they may be able to offer solutions they've used for their own depression.
Exercise is good way to reduce depression, and it also helps you control your blood sugar.
Finally, if you feel like you need an antidepressant medication, talk to your doctor, and be sure to discuss any effects the antidepressant could have on your blood sugar (some types are associated with higher blood sugar, some types with lower blood sugar).
Learning more about diabetes can help lift your mood
Kowalski didn't stay upset at herself for too long. She realized that genetics probably played a role in her diabetes. Her petite grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes, too.
Kowalski visited a dietitian and diabetes educator, which gave her a more accurate view of what she could expect from the disease and was better than the "horror stories" she'd read online.
"I really think just immersing yourself in information and talking to other people with diabetes is the best, like a support group, or even reading blogs," Kowalski says. "You can get good information on what might work for you based on what someone else did that was right or wrong."
In January 2008three years after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes blood tests suggested Kowalski had either type 1 or type 1.5 diabetes (a condition known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults, or LADA).