Treating Depression in People with Type 2 Diabetes

Living with a chronic disease increases a person’s risk of developing depression, and type 2 diabetes is no exception. Studies have found that people living with type 2 diabetes are approximately 25% more like to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety.1

Depression is more than just sadness – it is a serious mood disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. Depression can affect a person’s ability or desire to care for their diabetes, and depression is associated with higher blood glucose levels and worse health outcomes among people with type 2 diabetes. Proper treatment for depression is important for a person’s mental and physical health.2

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterized as experiencing some of the following symptoms most of the day, nearly everyday, for at least two weeks:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feeling guilty, worthless or helpless
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities that were previously pleasurable
  • Decreased energy
  • Increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Appetite or weight changes (either too much or not enough)
  • Aches or pains without a clear physical cause
  • Thoughts of death or suicide3

Comparison of treatments for major depression in type 2 diabetes

A recent clinical trial evaluated the effectiveness of talk therapy and exercise on depression among people with type 2 diabetes. The study included 140 adults with diabetes, and participants were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups:

  • 12 weeks of exercise with a person trainer
  • 10 individual talk therapy sessions
  • 12 weeks of concurrent exercise and talk therapy sessions
  • Usual care

Compared to those who received usual care, the participants who received exercise training, talk therapy, or both, all showed significant improvements in their symptoms of depression, diabetes-related distress, and quality of life. People who received talk therapy were significantly more likely to be free of major clinical depression symptoms than those in the usual care group. Those who received exercise also showed a reduction in the A1C levels (a measure of blood glucose levels for the past 3 months), compared to those receiving talk therapy or usual care. The findings of this study were significant in proving that exercise, guided by a personal trainer, is effective in treating both depression and type 2 diabetes.4

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