Feeling Blue? Depression and Chronic Hepatitis C
Last updated: July 2022
The CDC estimates that at least 16% of people over age 18 will experience depression at some point. Depression can affect anyone at any age and impacts people from all walks of life.1
However, certain factors increase one’s risk for depression. Family history, medication, trauma, abuse, major life changes or stressors, and drug or alcohol abuse are just a few. Certain health problems increase your depression risk as well, including hepatitis C.1-3
Reviewing over 100 studies on hepatitis C, researchers found the most common complications of hepatitis C outside of the liver were depression and diabetes. About 15% of people developed type 2 diabetes, but more, around 25%, were diagnosed with depression.2
Other studies report depression rates of over 30%. That’s much higher than the general population (those without hepatitis). It’s also higher than those with other types of hepatitis, like hepatitis B.1-3
You may be at an even higher risk of depression if infected with hepatitis C after IV drug use. When the links between depression, drug use, and hepatitis C were studied in the 1980s, the research found over 57% of people with hepatitis C using drugs experienced depression (higher than those without hepatitis C and using drugs).3
All this important research likely indicates a physical reason for the connection between hepatitis C and depression. There’s a social impact, like the stigmas around addiction and hepatitis C.
Researchers can’t say for certain what all the pieces of that physical link are. However, they do have some ideas. They include the impact of hepatitis C on the following:3
- Your brain and nervous system
- Your metabolic health, such as how well your body regulates blood sugars, cholesterol, blood pressure, and more
- The virus causes higher inflammation levels
Depression looks different in different people. Signs can include feelings of guilt and helplessness, changes in appetite, sleep, and energy levels, constant sadness, low interest in activities, trouble concentrating, and mood changes (irritability, anxiety).
Depression is a concern if these signs last a long time, more than two weeks, and make everyday tasks hard for you to do. Some people experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm.1
No matter the reason, or the cause, living with depression can be hard. Especially if the social stigmas you may already feel from hepatitis C are made worse by the stigmas around depression.
It takes courage to talk about feeling depressed and asking for help. However, talking with your medical team about your treatment options can start the path to healing.
Treatment for depression can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, treatment programs for addiction, and more.1
Regarding hepatitis C and depression, it’s important to know you’re not alone!
If you feel you may hurt yourself or take your own life, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1−800−273−TALK (8255) to reach a 24−hour crisis center or dial 911.
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