Diabetes can lead to depression among children and teens

Children with diabetes have a higher risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes are two to three times more likely to be depressed.

Children with diabetes have a higher risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes have five times the rate of depression than adolescents without Type 1 diabetes.

Impacts of depression and diabetes

Depression coupled with diabetes can cause more hospital visits and an increased risk for complications due to a lack of motivation in managing diabetes. Since depression can negatively impact how often a child keeps up with their blood glucose levels and dosing for carbs, we generally see an increase in blood sugar readings, A1C and possibly ketones which can lead to increase in hospital stays and lower quality of life.

“Depression in a pediatric patient with Type 1 diabetes makes it harder to manage their diabetes.” said Sheila Otten, LCSW, social worker with Norton Children’s Endocrinology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “This creates additional stress for the patient as well as the parent. Parents often express frustration in supporting their children in managing diabetes and do not always understand what the barrier is. That is why it is imperative to reach out to a skilled mental health profession who understands the nuances of diabetes management.”

Mental health support for diabetes patients with depression

Norton Children’s Endocrinology offers behavioral health services with licensed clinical social workers who specialize in diabetes care. The social workers are part of the child’s treatment team, which means they are better equipped to understand a diabetes patient’s overall needs and challenges. They offer specialized support, tools to manage burnout and empowerment skills for the patient. The licensed clinical social worker can also counsel the family on effective communication strategies and the best ways to manage their child’s condition.

“There is a direct relationship between a child’s mental health and physical health, because they can affect each other,” said Sheila. “To treat a child’s physical health, we have to make sure that we’re taking care of their mental health at the same time, which will help them reach their diabetes treatment goals with more ease and improve their quality of life. We want to make sure to provide every support for the patient and family’s success.”

Norton Children’s Endocrinology

Our team recognizes that each child has their own unique physical and mental health needs, and tailors their care accordingly.

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Challenging negative thoughts about diabetes and depression

Depression can cause patients to fall into negative thinking; what’s the point, it’s not fair, etc. Being curious and trying to understand is important. Support can be as easy as challenging these negative thoughts or utilizing supportive language such as:

  • “These are just numbers telling us what to do next…”
  • “Let’s figure this out together and see what is going on.”
  • “Your health is important and you are worth working on this…”
  • “What would be helpful to reach your goals?”