Depression in Parents of Children With Diabetes – is it Surprising?

Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Depression in Parents
GE insulin, Hypoglycaemia and Depression
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Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Depression in Parents of Children With Diabetes – is it Surprising?

A study [ref 1] has looked at depressive symptoms in parents of children with diabetes treated with intensive therapy [multiple daily injections] and with conventional therapy [twice daily injections]. It has shown that there are no significant differences in depressive symptoms in parents between those with children treated intensively and those treated conventionally.

The study did not show that parents’ depressive symptoms correlated with their child’s metabolic control, the duration of diabetes, age of the patient, age of the parent, family size or family income. The authors concluded that switching children to intensive therapy did not reduce the depressive symptoms in parents because as there was no reduction in depressive symptoms in the intensively treated group compared to the conventionally treated group. They suggest that as hypos are more common in intensive therapy, this may be a source of additional stress for the parents, so adding to their depressive symptoms.

The reality of what the study shows is that many of the things that were thought to cause parental depression actually don’t. It also shows that in some parents the depressive symptoms experienced at diagnosis do not go away as time passes.

As a parent could I dare to suggest that simply having a child with diabetes is something we never quite get over and this is why we show depressive symptoms. May be we don’t have to deeply search into why it happens! Let’s take a harsh look at the reality:

  • Your child is diagnosed with diabetes – a life-long condition for which there is no cure.
  • You have to face the reality that this is not a condition that even stays the same – there are always the risks of the complications at the back of your mind.
  • You have to live with the day to day worries of bringing up your child with diabetes and keeping the rest of the family happy.
  • You have to face the worries of hypos, at night, at school, when they are out socially, when they eventually leave home – this list is endless.
  • You feel a huge responsibility for your child’s future health and wellbeing and you can never quite get away from the feeling of guilt, however irrational this may be.
  • The longer you all live with diabetes, the more obvious it becomes that the hoped for cure is not around the corner and you even start to wonder whether there is real incentive to find that cure. You question the way in which research money for diabetes is spent.
  • We read that the death rates in people with diabetes have not reduced, so we have to question the effectiveness of present day treatment with all the apparent improvements such as home blood monitoring.

Is it surprising that we feel a bit depressed and that this depression is nothing to do with blood sugars, with time, with the age of our children or ourselves, with our income or our family situation? Some of these things may make it worse from time to time but underneath, we can never get away from the realities of diabetes. We need to be given some real hope. We need to see that research is going in the direction of making life better for those who already have diabetes as well as research into prevention. We need to be understood and heard and we need to see real progress in the treatment of diabetes for the sake of our children.
Ref 1 Diab Care, Vol 22, No 8 August 1999, 1372-1373 Depressive symptoms in parents in intensively treated children with diabetes compared to those conventionally treated