Loneliness and Alienation with Hepatitis C
Last updated: February 2022
The sense of isolation and subsequent feelings of loneliness and disconnection are often related to the stigma surrounding a hep C diagnosis. Regardless of the means of transmission, hep C is commonly associated with IV drug use. Therefore, for many, a sense of shame and isolation result following a diagnosis.
Hepatitis C affects many people
Regardless of how one contracted the illness, it appears that hep C is much more widespread than previously thought. Many organizations are suggesting that all people who were coming of age in to 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s be tested for the illness. This may have the positive effect of increased awareness among those who might be infected or are engaged in risky behaviors. Another hopeful change that may reduce alienation associated with the illness is the growing number of online and drop-in communities one can join and use for outreach and support, such as HepatitisC.net. These resources can be used with a degree of anonymity for those seeking information, and they identify and discuss issues that can magnify a sense of isolation for living with Hep C.
Social perceptions are changing
Accepting the illness and any behaviors associated with its contraction is important so one can move forward and prepare for a healthy. Now that hep C is more readily treatable, the reality of the illness has changed, as have the burden of related chronic health problems. For patients in rural communities, access to web-based support offers an avenue that may not be available in a brick and mortar setting (as many are in urban locations), offering connection and support for those who maybe most isolated. The medical community has at times maybe been slow to respond or commit research funding to hep C. This is changing, and now many medical researchers are quite engaged, and many health providers have specialist teams to support patients during treatment.
For me, and maybe others, having a support person who is or was hep C positive was less of a concern than having an informed and non-judgmental person to talk to about the mental and medical effects of the illness and in developing coping mechanisms. In fact, before my treatment there were several hep C patients that were quite negative and fatalistic that I avoided since their responses caused more fear and anxiety both detrimental, not beneficial. True, they had an insight that non-diagnosed people might not have, but there was also much anger that resulted in railing against the medical profession, among others; This didn’t reduce feelings of loneliness but accentuated them. Of course, these interactions and one’s personal responses will vary; Many survivors with years of experience have incredible insight and compassion and connecting to them can reduce feelings of loneliness and alienation.