Recognizing Depression and Getting Treatment

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2021 | Last updated: November 2022

Depression is a common experience across the world. It is especially common for those with hepatitis C (HCV).

What does depression mean?

The word depression often refers to the mood disorder major depressive disorder (MDD). There are other forms of depression, too. An example is postpartum depression, or depression that happens after childbirth.

Our brain sends signals and processes emotions through chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Two important ones for mood include serotonin and dopamine. An imbalance of these messengers can lead to depression.

Some people describe depression as sadness. However, it is much more than that. Depression impacts many aspects of daily life. It prevents a person from being the best version of themselves.

What are the signs of depression?

Common signs of depression include:1

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Moving or talking so slowly that others notice
  • Feeling hopeless, empty, sad, guilty, or worthless
  • Having trouble concentrating or completing tasks
  • Feeling body aches, cramps, headaches, or other physical symptoms without an obvious cause
  • Thoughts of hurting or killing oneself

A person may be diagnosed with depression if they experience several of these symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least 2 weeks.1

Depression and HCV

Depression can come along with HCV. At least 1 out of every 3 people with HCV also has depression. The risk of developing depression may be as high as 4 times that of the general population.2

Depression is complex. It can be caused by a variety of things. The stress of living with a chronic condition can play a role. Battling the stigma related to HCV can take a toll on mental health. Paying for healthcare can also cause stress, especially if you have other health conditions in addition to HCV. Finally, the virus itself may directly impact the brain and the chemical messengers it relies on.3

How is depression treated?

The good news is there are many ways to treat depression. Your doctor can help point you in the right direction. These options include drugs like antidepressants, talk therapy, and self-care.1

Although antidepressants often take several weeks to work, they can be helpful. These drugs may also come with side effects. These include problems sleeping or sexual side effects (decreased libido, trouble with erections, and more). Some supplements and other drugs may also interact with antidepressants. People taking antidepressants need to be monitored by their doctor.1

Talk therapy can be helpful. There are many different types of mental health professionals. It is ok to try out several to find the right fit.

Support groups (both online and in person) can also be a source of mental health support. Stress-relieving and mood-boosting activities may also be helpful. These include exercising, eating well, journaling, practicing yoga, meditating, and more.

In addition, studies have shown that treating HCV can also help improve depression.2

There are many possibilities for managing depression. The first step is recognizing the signs (or listening to those who are concerned) and reaching out for help. You are not alone.

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