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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Diabetes, Depression and Life

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 7th 2007

Diabetes is an insidious disease that, even after diagnosis and the start of treatment, leaves patients with a false sense of security that allows them to pretend that they are well and to eat whatever they want. However, it is not only the nature of the illness that feeds denial in patients with diabetes, but the onset of major depression resulting from the illness. In older adults diagnosed with diabetes the need for changes in life style and eating habits often triggers a major depression that, in a vicious cycle, allows them to engage in behaviors that worsens the symptoms and further limits their ability to live healthily further complicating the depression.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine recently completed and published the results of a study on the treatment of diabetes and depression. What it found was that those patients with diabetes and depression were 45% less likely to die within a five year period if they were treated for their depression along with the diabetes. The fact is that treatment for depression increased the willingness of these patients to comply with treatment requirements to control diabetes. However, the report states that it is not know what precise mechanisms caused these positive results.

Regardless of the precise mechanism that extended the lives of those with major depression and diabetes, the relationship between mind and body are illustrated by these important findings. For most of us the "head" needs to be treated along with the rest of the body. It is difficult to control or recover from an illness if there are feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. In fact, there is even evidence that chronic depression over a life time might lead to diabetes or other diseases. The relationship between stress and things such as high blood pressure, heart disease and even the common cold are well established. Constant stress can and does lower the body's immune system leaving us vulnerable to various types of viruses. We also know that those who are constantly angry are likely to develop heart disease later in life.

If you have a loved one who suffers from diabetes and is depressed it recommended that they seek treatment for the depression along with their medical condition.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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