Diabetes and Depression

During a major depression, symptoms last for at least two weeks and prevent the normal functioning of individuals.

Once the shock of the diagnosis is over, an adjustment period is needed to learn how to live with diabetes. Consequently, it is normal to feel unsettling emotions when dealing with this new condition, which upsets your daily routine.

About 30% of people with diabetes experience significant depressive symptoms and nearly 10% suffer from major depression – twice the rate of those not suffering from chronic health problems.

Fortunately, depression can be treated, hence the importance of recognizing its signs.

Risk factors

For people with diabetes, the risk factors for depression are:

  • Being female
  • Adolescence, early adulthood and end of life
  • Poverty and lack of social support
  • Numerous stressful events
  • Poor diabetes control
  • Presence of long-term complications
  • Having had diabetes for a long time

Consequences for people with diabetes

Because of the lack of energy and motivation caused by depression, people with diabetes who are also depressed have more trouble mustering their energy to manage their disease. This results in poor blood glucose (sugar) control, as well as an increase in medical complications.

Depression can lead to psychological problems not only for the patient but also for the family.

Recognizing depression

Depressed feelings, which are normal following a diabetes diagnosis, should not be confused with major depression. In a major depression, the symptoms last at least two weeks and prevent you from functioning normally (at work, in family and social situations). The symptoms of depression are:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of enjoyment or interest in normally pleasurable activities
  • Feeling empty, exhausted
  • Feeling guilty or useless
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Agitation or the impression of moving in slow motion
  • Disrupted appetite or trouble sleeping
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

What should you do if these symptoms occur?

Depression is often perceived as a character flaw and that is why depressed people tend to minimize their symptoms and isolate themselves rather than seeking help.

If you have some or all of these symptoms, it is important to tell your doctor or a psychologist so that you can be properly evaluated. You can also talk to a member of your health care team, who can help you assess the seriousness of the symptoms and refer you to professional help.


Once depression has been diagnosed, it is usually treated with antidepressants and psychotherapy.

It is important to take your medication as prescribed (dosage, duration) and notify your doctor of any side effects. You will need periodic medical follow-ups to assess how well the medication is working for you.

Family and friends

If a family member or friend exhibits signs of depression, encourage her to seek help so her depression can be diagnosed and treated without delay. Your support, just like the support offered by a self-help group, can help her heal. Remember: you can help a depressed person feel better simply by providing an attentive, non-judgmental ear.


Consult the pschosocial aid section of the useful links.


Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals

Scientific review: Dr. Alain Janelle, Psychologist

July 2014 (updated on July 2018)


Robinson D, Coons M, Haensel H et al. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Diabetes and Mental Health. Can J Diabetes 2018; 42 (Suppl 1): S130-S141.

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