Betsy Weiss of Philadelphia was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was 15. That was the only time a doctor ever talked to her about the possibility of mental health problems that could accompany the disease.
“And then, after I turned 18, and I had an adult doctor instead of a pediatric doctor, that really stopped,” she said. “People would just ask me how I was, general doctor questions. Am I exercising and eating healthy? But that was it.”
Weiss said she would have liked her doctors to follow up with her about mental health — especially because she’s experienced depression from time to time and wonders if it’s related to her diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recently expanded its recommendations to health care providers, encouraging doctors to screen for depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Specifically, it’s advising physicians to consider screens for anxiety in patients with diabetes who have symptoms such as excessive worry during routine care.
They also recommend screening for depression if a patient begins to experience a complication, for instance, or when the disease status changes.
“These are not burdensome screening tools. These are simple — they can be done in waiting room or during a normal interview — but they are important to address because psychosocial issues impact the ability of the patient to self manage,” said Dr. Rita Kalyani, co-chair of the American Diabetes Association’s professional practices committee.
If a patient has a severe condition, Kalyani said, doctors are encouraged to refer the patient to a mental health professional with a background in diabetes.
Meanwhile, Betsy Weiss has found support in an online group of others with diabetes who share stories and strategies for management.