People with hepatitis C face many challenges after
being diagnosed. These challenges can occur on a daily basis and seem
to last from diagnosis until being cured. These challenges can lead
to increased anxiety and depression. This article is about the many
difficulties that people with hepatitis C face that can lead to
depression, how to identify depression and some steps to deal with it.
HCV and Depression
There are certain times during the hepatitis C journey that people may experience depression:
After a diagnosis of HCV, people are in shock, and many feelings may
surface. Some of the fears may include, but are not limited to:
Feeling like you may infect someone else
Suffering from hepatitis C
Being alone if friends and family turn away
Loss of intimacy—both emotional and physical
Being unable to start a family, and/or being unable to grow old with a family
Losing income or not being able to support yourself or loved ones
The list is endless. An
additional issue is that now people are being denied access to
treatment. All of these matters can lead to anxiety and depression.
This time of year is even more difficult because some people experience
additional holiday loneliness, isolation, and depression.
Depression is a serious disease that affects about 1
in 4 American adults. It can lead to death. More importantly, it is
a treatable illness. It is not something that you can just snap out
of in spite of what some people think. Like hepatitis C, it is a
silent disease and very stigmatized. It is finally coming out of the
shadows, and it can be successfully treated with counseling and
Warning Signs: If
you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, this is an emergency
that needs to be taken care of right away. Call your doctor or nurse or
one of the phone numbers listed at the end of this article. People
who work at crisis hotlines have been trained to help people who are in
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Feeling sad, anxious or having an “empty” feeling
Crying spells with no real explanation
Feeling hopeless or pessimistic (gloomy or negative symptoms)
Feeling helpless about life in general
Not interested in family or social events, hobbies, sex or being with friends
Constantly fatigued—tired all the time
Cannot concentrate or make decisions
Trouble with remembering things
Having problems sleeping at night
Losing weight, not eating, or eating too much and gaining weight
Thinking about killing yourself or just even planning on killing yourself
There is help out there. Think about talking to a
professional. Ask for help from your family, friends, and medical
team. If you cannot talk to family or friends, start with a support
group. This can be particularly useful if you are dealing with any
issue related to hepatitis C.
There are some general things
that people can do to help conquer depression, but with severe
depression, nothing replaces professional help.
Everyone with hepatitis C should stay away from
alcohol, but if you are suffering from depression it is even more
important. Alcohol can also cause depression.
Stress is a killer—that is a no-brainer. There are
many tips to reduce stress—exercise, finding balance, keeping a
positive attitude, finding help, meditating, prayer, laughing, watching
movies or any other pastime you find pleasurable. Personally, when I
get stressed out, I like to listen to one of my favorite comedians. It
always puts a smile on my face and sends me on my way to enjoy the
rest of my day—at least when I have a light case of the blues.
Try to get a realistic picture of your life and
problems. It sounds easier than it is but don’t dwell on the
negative. Find things that you enjoy and when you find yourself
dwelling on the negative try turning it around and remember what it is
positive about your life.
Walking, swimming, Qigong, running or almost any
exercise can help to elevate the mood. Think about joining a gym or a
group exercise program. Go slowly and if you have any physical
problems get cleared by your medical provider. Personally, I exercise
every day to chase away the stress and blues.
We live in a stressful world and trying to do
everything can lead to stress, exhaustion, unrealistic expectations and
depression. Try to find balance – plan activities, build in down time
and get plenty of rest.
Keeping a Positive Attitude
A positive attitude will not cure depression, but it
does offer hope for the future. Remember, the way you feel now will
not last forever. However, it is important to get a realistic picture
of your physical and mental health.
These are all useful tips for less severe types of
depression, but if you feel that you need more help, consider
There are many medications—anti-anxiety and
antidepressants—that can help. Talk to a psychiatrist or your medical
provider to find out if this would be a good fit for you. Everyone is
different, and every antidepressant works differently. You and your
medical provider may have to try more than one medication to find the
one that works for you. Most medicines have side effects, and all
antidepressants have some side effects. The most common side effects
of antidepressants include headaches, nausea, jitters, nervousness and
sexual side effects. Some of the side effects may diminish over
time. Talk to your medical provider to make sure that the
antidepressant is safe for the liver.
One of the best ways to fight
depression is through knowledge and actions. Learn as much about
hepatitis C to reduce the fear of the unknown. If you are depressed
because you cannot get approved for a new treatment—check out Lucinda’s
HealthWise article for tips to fight back and get approved for the new
therapies. We don’t want to harp on it too much, but get help for
depression if you need it.
Labels: Depression, patients first, strategies for coping