Chronic Medical Issues and the Mental Health Connection

During the month of November, the medical community observes several chronic medical issues among them are diabetes awareness, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer among many others. You may be wondering why would a blog that focuses on mental health issues would discuss medical issues?        

90% of the nation’s 3.3 trillion in annual healthcare expenditure is spent on chronic medical and mental health issues combined. It is almost inevitable to make the connection that people who suffer from chronic medical issues will also suffer from mental health issues and is it possible that one predisposes the other? According to the National Cancer Institute about 15-25% of cancer patients suffer from depression and affects both male and female equally. About 29% of individuals with diabetes are at risk of developing depression and 53% of those taking insulin are at greater risk compared to non-diabetic individuals. Individuals with diabetes are becoming the subject of much discussion and research as many experts believe that the relationship between diabetes and depression is bidirectional; meaning, diabetes can cause depression and depression can cause diabetes. Though the jury is not out, there much evidence to support the hypothesis and it means that these individuals need to take extra precaution and seek help as soon as possible. 

Many with chronic medical issues believe depression is a normal part of being physically ill, but depression can be safely treated while other illnesses are present. Some common symptoms of depression are:

·  Loss of pleasure in activities you use to enjoy, feeling hopeless

·  Fatigue and low energy, Sleeping issues

·  Poor concentration, difficulty remembering details and making decisions

·  Increased or decreased appetite, weight loss/gain

·  Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts

·  Some physical symptoms like aches/pains, headaches, cramps without a physical cause 

Poor diabetes management can also lead to symptoms similar to those of depression. For example, if your blood sugar is too high or too low, you may experience increased feelings of anxiety, restlessness, or low energy. Low blood sugar levels can also cause you to feel shaky and sweaty, which are symptoms similar to anxiety. We encourage susceptible individuals to contact their primary care physician who will be able to make appropriate recommendations or call 911 for more serious issues. 

Davonie Green, B.S., M.S.

Director of Mental Health

Island Hope International

d.green@islandhope.org

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