Depression – The Dark Side of Diabetes

| April 19, 2017

Having diabetes puts you at increased risk of becoming depressed. In part, this may be due to the effect your condition has on your quality of life and your hopes for the future. But in addition, the damage high blood sugar does to your brain can disrupt levels of neurotransmitters, so affecting your mood.

It is a shocking fact that one in ten people who receive a diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes try to take their own lives. In a Swedish study, children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes were at much higher risk of psychiatric problems and suicide attempts than their healthy siblings.1

The medication that diabetes patients are prescribed may even contribute to this increased suicide risk, since it offers somebody who is severely depressed an easy way to end it all. A recent study shows that, in the US, deliberate overdosing with insulin, sulphonylureas or metformin has been used in suicide attempts by people with diabetes.2

If you have diabetes and you are feeling low, it is important that you don’t keep it to yourself. It may not be easy, but you need to tell your doctor, your loved ones and your friends how you feel. The support of those around you is key to overcoming your depression. And if you are having really black thoughts, it may be best to put somebody else in charge of your medication.

Antidepressants could do more harm than good

Although they can help in some cases, antidepressant drugs are usually not the best answer. As I mentioned in an earlier post here, studies show only around 10 per cent of depressed patients actually get any clinical benefit from the antidepressants prescribed for them. And when these drugs do appear to help, it could be due to the placebo effect.

Even worse than their lack of effectiveness are the side effects that antidepressant drugs often cause, including sexual dysfunction, weight gain, insomnia, nausea, and diarrhoea. And, paradoxically they may also increase the risk of suicide.3

There are plenty of natural alternatives to antidepressant drugs. Here are some of the most effective:


Depression often means you have no energy, but getting moving physically helps you to move out of that mental “black hole”, too. Start gently and work up to around 45 minutes of rhythmic exercise, which triggers the release of endorphins – your brain’s natural antidepressants

Oil your brain

Taking omega-3 fatty acids – as fish oil, krill oil or marine algae oil – may help relieve depression. Those with high levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are likely to be the most effective. These oils can also improve insulin sensitivity, so monitor your blood sugar closely while taking them

Get herbal help

Look into antidepressant herbs. Curcumin and saffron have both been found to be more effective than Prozac, while St John’s Wort has long been the first line treatment for depression in Germany. Arctic root (Rhodiola rosea) helps to improve energy and mood, by increasing the activity of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

You can find more information on natural antidepressants here.

It could also help to get to bed early. People with type 2 diabetes who are night owls have more depression symptoms than those who are early to bed and early to rise.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


  1. Butwicka A, Frisén L, Almqvist C, Zethelius B, Lichtenstein P. Risks of psychiatric disorders and suicide attempts in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes: a population-based cohort study. Diabetes Care. 2015; 38(3):453-459.
  1. Myers A, Trivedi MH. Death by insulin: management of self-harm and suicide in diabetes management. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2016 Oct 5 (Online ahead of print).
  1. Sharma T, Guski LS, Freund N, Gøtzsche PC. Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment: systematic review and meta-analyses based on clinical study reports. BMJ. 2016; 352:i65.
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