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Diabetes and mental health: management in primary care

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It is important to approach diabetes in a holistic fashion, acknowledging its psychological and emotional impact

Any health care professional (HCP) who has regular contact with individuals with diabetes will be aware of mental health issues that impact on their diabetes care. Indeed, they may turn out to be the limiting factor in what can be achieved in their diabetes management. In common with many chronic diseases there is a higher risk of mental health problems in those with diabetes.

Thus, it is important to approach diabetes in a holistic fashion acknowledging that, alongside physical health, psychological and emotional factors are important considerations1. Tackling these issues can enable improved self-management of diabetes, reduction in diabetes complications and improved quality of life2. Barriers to dealing with mental health problems include time pressures, inadequate resources and lack of skills in this area3.

HCPs need to be on the lookout for mental health problems in people with diabetes4. In this context an empathetic approach with open questions allowing the individual to express their problems is most likely to uncover emotional and mental health problems. Screening questions can be useful, if necessary using validated tools to help make a diagnosis. Psychological and pharmacological treatments may be utilised with referral to the mental health team as required3.

This article looks at some of the more common mental health problems associated with diabetes.

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