Depression and diabetes

Sarah Jerstad, LP PhD and Chelsea Weinstein, LICSW

Living with a chronic disease is difficult and can be overwhelming for many youth. While it’s normal for teens to have ups and downs in their mood, up to 15-25% of adolescents with type 1 diabetes experience depression compared to 14% in general adolescent population. This translates to about 2-3 times the rate of depression for kids with diabetes compared to kids without chronic illness. Of course, not all teens with diabetes will experience depression, but knowing you are at higher risk can help keep you alert to signs of depression.

  • What to look for:
    • Feeling sad or down most days
    • Loss of interest in activities typically enjoyed
    • Being withdrawn
    • Lethargy, headaches, body aches, upset stomach
    • Sleep or appetite changes
    • Lack of motivation
  • Some things that can contribute to depression:
    • Feeling different than peers
    • Not taking care of diabetes and feeling physically sick
    • Recurrent diabetes hospitalizations
    • Difficulty accepting the idea of having the disease forever
    • Feelings of helplessness and loss of control
  • What to do about depression
    • Don’t keep it to yourself – talk to someone about how you feel. Isolation has been shown to make depression symptoms worse.
    • Behavioral activation (getting out and doing something) has been proven to reduce depression symptoms. Take a walk, ride your bike, call a friend, play a game, bake… do something.
    • Taking good care of your diabetes will help you feel better.
    • If your depression is making it hard to sleep, hard to function at school, or hard to get along with others, seek out help from your school counselor or another therapist.
  • Resources to help