Aims The objective of this study is to investigate whether type of depressive symptoms (i.e. cognitive-affective or somatic) is related to a patient-perceived need for professional psychological care in individuals with diabetes. Methods In total 2266 participants were recruited as part of the screening procedure for a multi-center randomized controlled trial on the treatment of depressive symptoms among individuals with diabetes. Individuals were invited to complete Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). Patients with elevated depressive symptoms (BDI-II 14) were interviewed about their psychological care need. Based on their care needs patients were categorized into: unmet need, no need, met need and unclear need. These groups were compared on type of depressive symptoms, as categorized into cognitive-affective symptoms and somatic symptoms. Results 568 eligible individuals had elevated depressive symptoms, of whom 519 were reached. Among these depressed individuals, 19.7% (102 of 519) had an unmet need for psychological care. Participants with an unmet need were younger (p<0.001) and had higher total depression scores compared to the group with no need (p<0.001). They also scored higher on cognitive-affective symptoms (p<0.001), whereas somatic symptoms did not significantly differ (p = 0.232). Logistic regression revealed that cognitive-affective symptoms predicted an unmet need (p = 0.001). However, overall predictive capacity of type of depressive symptoms on care needs was weak. Conclusions Cognitive-affective symptoms of depression—but not somatic symptoms—were associated with an unmet need for psychological care among depressed individuals with diabetes. Future research is needed to reveal better predictors explaining the discrepancy between distress and low care needs in order to optimize screening procedures.