Depression is more than just feeling down for a bit, it is a constant feeling of despair and hopelessness. Depression is very common and the difficulties of managing HIV can leave you more likely to become depressed. Trying to manage depression can lead to other problems as well, such as isolation, drug and alcohol use and sexual risk-taking.
Anyone can suffer from depression. Sometimes there is an identifiable cause, such as the loss of someone close to you, an HIV diagnosis, starting treatment, difficulties in relationships, and sometimes it’s difficult to identify a particular reason why you’re feeling this way.
There are also particular forms of depression – seasonal affective disorder, post-natal depression and bipolar disorder. Depression can feed on itself because, if you are depressed, it can be hard to find the motivation and hope to do the
things which can help you. It can lead to cycles of negative thinking. It can also lead to physical symptoms such as aching joints, lethargy, loss of sex drive etc.
If you are depressed, you may feel that nothing can help. This is untrue. Deciding to do something to help yourself is the most important step you can take.
If you are struggling and finding things difficult, it’s really important that you talk to someone who you can trust. Here are some other things which you can do to help yourself if you are feeling depressed:
- Try to recognise patterns of negative thoughts, and replace them with more positive thoughts or a constructive activity which can distract you.
- You may well not feel like it but it’s helpful to do some form of physical activity each day. This stimulates chemicals in the brain called endorphins.
- Try to do things which make you feel good about yourself. Allow yourself positive experience and treats. Look after your physical appearance.
- Try to eat as healthily as possible and avoid tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, which make can make depression worse.
The very nature of depression, which brings a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness, can prevent you from seeking help. You may want to withdraw from friends and family, but this is the time when you need other people the most. It is also important to talk to your GP who may discuss with you the possibility of anti-depressant medication.