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Diabetes is the general term for two different disorders characterized by the inability to properly process glucose, a substance the body uses as its primary source of energy. Some people develop a condition called type 1 diabetes; however, the vast majority of affected individuals develop itype 2 diabetes. Current evidence indicates that people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have significantly increased risks for developing depression. Conversely, people with depression have increased risks for developing the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Basics

Glucose comes from foods and beverages in your diet that contain carbohydrates. When you consume carbohydrates, they get broken down in your digestive system; once this breakdown process is completed, molecules of glucose pass from your small intestine into your bloodstream. Normally, the presence of glucose triggers the release of a pancreas gland hormone called insulin; this hormone also enters the bloodstream and sends a chemical signal that tells the body’s cells to absorb glucose into their interiors. However, in people with diabetes, this process goes wrong in one of two basic ways, and glucose builds up abnormally in the bloodstream.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreas gland and prevents that gland from producing enough insulin to help the body’s cells absorb glucose normally. In people with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin, but the cells don’t respond properly to insulin’s chemical signals. Roughly 5 percent to 10 percent of all diabetics in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes, the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse reports. Almost all of the remaining diabetes cases involve type 2 diabetes. In addition, roughly 3 percent to 8 percent of pregnant women develop a (usually) temporary form of diabetes called gestational diabetes.

Interconnected Conditions

Almost 26 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 30 percent of all diabetics have some form of depression. This rate is twice as high as the depression rate found in people who don’t have diabetes. Conversely, the presence of depression increases any given individual’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 60 percent.

No one can say for sure exactly how diabetes and depression interact with each other, the Mayo Clinic explains. However, diabetes can potentially increase a person’s depression risks in two basic ways. First, the strain of the lifestyle changes needed to combat diabetes can contribute to a “down” mood and increase the likelihood that depression symptoms will appear. In addition, in people with advanced or uncontrolled diabetes, the disorder’s toll on physical health can contribute to the onset of depression or help make existing depression symptoms more severe. Depression can also increase a person’s diabetes risks in two basic ways. First, depressed people can easily adopt a number of unhealthy behaviors that significantly boost their overall chances of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, depression can create states of mind that make it much more difficult for type 1 or type 2 diabetics to properly address their diabetes-related health concerns.

Increased Fatality Risks

In a study review published in 2013 in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, a multi-university research team examined the death rates in over 42,000 people who had simultaneous cases of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and depression. These researchers concluded that diabetics with depression have a 50 percent greater chance of dying at any given time than the general population. In another study review, published in 2011 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined the health records of more than 78,000 middle-aged and elderly women; they concluded that women in these age groups who have both diabetes and depression have more than a 150 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than the general female population in these age groups.

Successful Treatment

Fortunately, doctors can simultaneously treat both diabetes and depression. Just as fortunately, positive treatment results for either one of these conditions frequently leads to improvements in the other condition. In a study published in 2012 in the Annals of Family Medicine, a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania examined the effectiveness of combined treatment for diabetes and depression. These researchers concluded that, when compared to affected individuals who only receive treatment for diabetes or depression, individuals who receive combined treatment for a period of 12 weeks are roughly twice as likely to experience significant improvements in both their diabetes symptoms and their depression symptoms.

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