If you’re diagnosed with hepatitis C virus (HCV), taking good care of your liver is crucial. HCV can get worse, leading to long-lasting health challenges. However, while most individuals with this virus are fully aware of what it can do to their physical health, they aren’t aware of the virus’s effects on their mental health. Here, we discuss more the connection between hepatitis C and depression.
What’s The Link Between Hepatitis C and Depression?
About 2% of Americans have the hepatitis C virus. However, cases of HCV are nine times more common in persons with mental challenges such as depression or anxiety. Mental challenges can interfere with one’s judgment. This might lead an individual with mental illness to make choices that can increase chances of acquiring HCV, such as unsafe sex, drug use, or sharing needles.
On the other hand, more than half of persons with HCV experience depression. This may be caused by the stigma surrounding Hepatitis C. Since HCV is closely linked to drug use, these individuals feel as if they’re judged. Additionally, most people who don’t know much about HCV distance themselves from those with the virus since they are scared of contracting it. As a result, individuals with HCV tend to develop depression or anxiety.
Also, if you have HCV, and at the same time, you’re out of work or are using drugs, and you lack a robust support system, you’re likely to develop depression.
Hepatitis C Virus Treatment and Depression
Some common HCV may interfere with one’s mood. As a result, people using this medication may develop depression. For instance, interferon, a common hepatitis C medication, is linked with about 30 to 70% risk of developing depression as a side effect.
One study revealed that persons who develop depression during interferon are also at a high risk of developing depression after treatment. Therefore, healthcare providers should follow up on patients after interferon therapy to determine if they’re experiencing depression.
Luckily, newer hepatitis C medications, known as direct-acting antiviral drugs, don’t have as many side effects as interferon. If you have HCV, you may need to seek your doctor’s advice on treatments that may not cause depression as a side effect.
Remember, newer hepatitis C medications cure the condition in more than 90% of people with the virus. Also, they can reduce the risks of developing long-term liver damage, among other complications.
How To Manage Depression Symptoms With Hepatitis C
If you have HCV and are experiencing depression, the following tips can help you feel much better:
- Avoid using drugs and drinking alcohol: Besides worsening your anxiety and depression symptoms, alcohol and drugs can seriously impact your liver. Since HCV affects the liver, you may not need to escalate the problem with alcohol and drugs. Practice saying no and avoid friends who can pressure you to engage in drinking and drug abuse.
- Look beyond your label: Living with HCV doesn’t define your identity. Besides having the virus, you have other essential roles in your life. For instance, you are a parent, spouse, or friend. Let all the other roles remind you that there’s more to life than the virus.
- Be patient: Among the important things when you have HCV is to be patient. Ensure to seek treatment and allow it to work at its pace. Additionally, if your loved ones seem not to support you upon knowing that you have the virus, be patient and allow them some time to digest the information. In due time, the ones that matter will come around.
- Consider your partner: If you’re in a long-term relationship and have HCV, you’re more likely to pass the virus to your partner. These feelings of worry may lead to anxiety or depression. Additionally, some HCV treatments can raise your virus level. However, you can talk to your doctor about the safest ways to avoid passing the virus to your partner and disclose them to your partner. By this, you’ll live stress-free, hence avoiding depression.
- Practice safe sex: Most people with hepatitis C are depressed over their sex life. However, with safe sex, you don’t have to worry about the matter. Ensure to use latex condoms to prevent passing the virus to your partner. Additionally, you must ensure that you use water-based lubricants whenever required since oil-based can lead to condom breakage. It’s also advisable to avoid brushing or dental flossing immediately after oral sex or deep kissing. This causes your gums to bleed, increasing your chances of contracting infections. Remember, besides protecting your partner from acquiring HCV, condoms protect you from other viruses, such as HIV.
When To Seek Professional Help
Though your doctor will check if HCV treatment is causing you depression during every visit, it’s essential to check for depression signs. If you experience some of the following signs, you may require a mental health specialist’s attention as soon as possible.
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Trouble focusing
- Weight loss
- Sleeping problems
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty waking up
- The need to isolate
- Difficulty making decisions
- Physical aches such as headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
If you experience these symptoms for more than two weeks, discuss them with your doctor to determine a suitable treatment plan. Remember, if you’re diagnosed with depression, your doctor may prescribe talk therapy, treatment, or a combination of both. Learn more about Hepatitis C symptoms you should not ignore.
Hepatitis C and Depression – Conclusion
Most people don’t know much about Hepatitis C. Due to this, persons with this virus are more likely to develop depression since they view it as a death sentence. However, there’s no need to be depressed over HCV since it can be cured. Various treatment plans can cure the condition completely. Nevertheless, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan that is less likely to cause depression as a side effect.
Remember, with therapies and the proper treatment; you can recover from depression and hepatitis C.