Dealing with Diabetes

Dealing with Diabetes. (WPEC)

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For the 29-million Americans living with diabetes, it's also common to experience mental health issues.

A new effort is underway to increase awareness about this often-unrecognized connection, to get patients the help they need.

From monitoring her blood sugar levels to inspecting every food label Emily Viall says managing her type one diabetes is a never-ending and overwhelming process.

“You're making so many decisions every day," says Viall. “It’s hugely stressful.”

And that's not all she's faced since being diagnosed at age 14.

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

It turns out, Emily's mental health issues aren't unusual for people with diabetes.

"It is something that is very common in those with diabetes and it's nothing to be ashamed of," she said.

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are 20% more likely to have anxiety.

And twice as likely to have depression.

And a study published in the B-M-J found female patients between 12 to 19 years old with Type 1 diabetes are 2.4 times more likely to have an eating disorder.

Dr. William Cefalu says doctors often overlook these issues leading to additional stress on diabetes patients.

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

So the American Diabetes Association has launched a new 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," said the doctor. "This is as much part of the treatment as providing medication or having an adequate diet or getting enough activity."

"I'm doing really well," says Viall.

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

And as a diabetes nurse educator herself, she encourages patients to seek the psychosocial treatment they need, too.

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

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