Awareness increases for diabetes-mental health connection

Dr. William Cefalu, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Diabetes Association, says not dealing with the mental health aspects of the disease may impact how patients manage their diabetes.

Emily Viall says managing her type 1 diabetes is a never-ending and overwhelming process.

"You're making so many decision every day," she said. "It's hugely stressful."

But she has faced more than that since being diagnosed at age 14.

"I had body image issues, anxiety, depression, all of this coincided to make a perfect storm"

It's not unusual that mental health issues come with diabetes.

"It is something that is very common in those with diabetes, and it's nothing to be ashamed of," says Dr. William Cefalu, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Diabetes Association

The American Diabetes Associate says people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are 20 percent more likely to have anxiety and twice as likely to have depression.

A study published in the BMJ says female patients from 12 to 19 years old with type 1 diabetes are 2.4 times more likely to have an eating disorder.

Cefalu says physicians often overlook mental health issues, putting more stress on patients with diabetes.

"This may impair their ability to manage the disease. If you don't manage your disease appropriately, it will lead to complications," he said.

The American Diabetes Association has launched a training program to increase awareness and improve treatment.

"We've partnered with the American Psychological Association to form a continuum medical education program to help mental health providers understand the complexities of the disease," Cefalu said. "This is as much part of the treatment as providing medication or having an adequate diet or getting enough activity."

Emily Viall now goes to a therapist and a psychiatrist. Those visits, she says, has helped her get her anxiety and depression under control.

She is a also a diabetes nurse educator, so she encourages patients to seek the mental health treatment they may need.

"I'm a big proponent of therapy, and I think the medications certainly helped."

About 120 mental health providers have gone through the new training. They will be listed in a registry coming out in January.

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