Just about anyone can be affected by mental health issues, not just those who have been diagnosed to have HIV. According to estimates, around a quarter of all people in America are afflicted with some mental health problem at some point in time or the other. There are a number of different types of mental illnesses like depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, or personality disorders, and their symptoms can vary a lot in frequency and severity. If you are living with HIV, it may be highly likely that you will have extra worries. However, it is vital that you recognize that your mental wellbeing is as important as your physical fitness and that you seek help whenever required. You will be able to reach out for help earlier if you are aware of the symptoms, and the causes of the symptoms. Some scenarios that can affect your mental health:
Learning About Being HIV-Positive
Getting to know that you are afflicted with HIV can be an extremely emotional experience and many people have a very hard time coming to terms with it. The healthcare professional who communicates the news to you will be able to assist you to overcome the initial shock and explain how it may affect your life and relationships. It is very natural for you to be stressed out regarding your life expectancy because as of now there is no cure for aids. How you will be able to face and deal with your spouse, partner, and children can often be extremely troubling too. An experienced healthcare professional will be able to provide most of the information with respect to the initial questions that will come to your mind.
Commencing a Lifelong Treatment
With so much misinformation about HIV floating around, it is quite natural for you to be worried about getting ill due to HIV, however, you should bear in mind that with the latest antiretroviral treatment this can be prevented with great success. Some people resist starting the anti-HIV treatment because commencing it is the final admission of the reality of HIV infection. However, many others readily agree to commence their treatment because they know that it represents a viable way of remaining healthy for a longer time. You will find that the acceptance of the fact that you need to stay with a lifelong treatment becomes a lot easier with time.
Stigma and Discrimination
It is quite possible that you will experience discrimination and stigma from people who have no idea about HIV but harbor negative views about it. Dealing with this can be really tough because all of a sudden you will observe relationships changing and people who may have been close to you distancing them. It will be helpful to have adequate information about HIV handy with you so that you can try and explain it to the people you share relationships with. It may be a great stress-buster to talk to people affected by HIV or join a support group because here the people you will be interacting with will know the dimensions of the illness, and help you to find better ways of dealing with it.
Side Effects of Medications
It has been observed that when antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are prescribed, some patients develop depression. In case you suspect that this is also happening with you, it can be a great idea to discuss it with the concerned healthcare provider so that they chalk out the most effective treatment plan for you and may also switch the medications, if so required.
Looking After Mental Health
It is absolutely normal to be emotionally distressed when you have been diagnosed with HIV. It helps a lot if you can recognize the symptoms so that you can address them more effectively. Perhaps the best way of tackling your distress is to talk with family members and close friends because they are the people who will best understand you, even if you are running scared that your HIV affliction will upset them.
Even when you can talk freely with family and friends, it is a very good idea to access support groups and specialized help lines because you can often interact with people who are also similarly affected and discover the many ways of managing that have proved effective for them. Similarly, you should try and access your healthcare provider because letting them know of your mental health is as important as giving them an update on your physical wellbeing, because they can alter the treatment or suggest appropriate therapies.
No doubt, having HIV can be a pretty earth-shaking affair, but you need to know that there are countless stories of people leading extremely healthy and fulfilling lives despite having HIV. You need to eat right, exercise right, and keep your spirits up so that you do not allow yourself to be always under the shadow of the illness, and look to the future with anxiety.
Author bio: Gary Martins is a psychological counselor specializing in patients with HIV. While he explains to his patients that even though right now there is no cure for aids, there are exciting scientific developments taking place that can promise a better quality of life for them.