Group Therapy for Depressed Diabetic Women

Depression in women with type 2 diabetes may be treated with cognitive behavior group therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Living with a chronic disease like diabetes can take a toll not only on your body but also on your mind. In fact, depression affects about a quarter of people with type 2 diabetes, particularly women.

Group therapy may be an effective way to treat depression in women with type 2 diabetes, according to research from Loyola University.

"Seek therapy if you have depression."

Studies have shown that drugs used to treat depression can interfere with blood sugar control and may be linked to weight gain. This poses a problem for depressed diabetes patients, as both blood sugar control and weight gain are central aspects of diabetes.

"Using antidepressants to treat depression, although important, can be associated with side effects that make compliance an issue for people with diabetes or those at risk for diabetes," said Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, of Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and co-author of the study.

"This makes other options, such as cognitive-behavior therapy, increasingly important for diabetics with depression," she said.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of mental health counseling that helps patients become aware of inaccurate or negative thoughts that can affect behavior and feelings.

For their study, Dr. Penckofer and colleagues assigned women with high levels of depression symptoms to a group therapy program called SWEEP or to standard care. SWEEP is the first cognitive-behavior therapy program to treat depressed women in a group setting.

Women who participated in SWEEP were taught how blood sugar levels can affect depression, anxiety and anger. They also learned how to spot signs of stress and to find other ways to reduce negative thoughts, improve self-care and communicate better.

Results from the study showed that significantly less women in the SWEEP group were affected by depression after 6 months compared to women who received standard care. While 80 percent of the women who received standard care were depressed after 6 months, only 35 percent of women in the SWEEP group were depressed.

In addition, SWEEP therapy was more effective than standard care in reducing anxiety and anger.

"Additional work needs to be done to develop treatment options that address the emotional needs of people with type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Penckofer.

"The next step would be to explore other tailored group cognitive therapy programs for depression based on gender, race or disease.

This is particularly important since depression is associated with relapse and use of cognitive therapy is associated with lower relapse rates," she said.

In other words, depression is linked to worsening diabetes, while cognitive therapy is linked to lower rates of worsening diabetes. As such, researchers should look into fine-tuning cognitive therapy programs for different patient groups with different needs.

The study included 38 women assigned to SWEEP therapy and 36 women assigned to standard care.

The research was published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine

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Review Date: 
October 3, 2012
Last Updated:
October 6, 2012