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Depression can be a common reaction to a stressful event in life, especially loss. It may also be a symptom of a chronic medical illness, or a reaction to medication. It is not uncommon for people with HIV to experience depression.

The most important aspect of depression is that it can be effectively treated.

Signs of Depression

There are many signs associated with depression, though experiencing each of these things separately does not indicate that you have depression:

  • A feeling of sadness lasting for an extended period of time;
  • Loss of appetite, significant weight gain or loss;
  • Irregular sleeping patterns and difficulty getting out of bed;
  • Anxiety, irritability, impulsive behaviour;
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or that there is no future;
  • Finding you do not enjoy previously pleasurable activities;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Frequent crying, or inability to cry;
  • Difficulty concentrating and loss of interest;
  • Loss of sexual desire or sexual difficulties.

Factors which can aggravate depression

If you are feeling depressed, you need to be aware of things that can increase feelings of depression. Some of these are:

  • Drug use;
  • Alcohol use;
  • Certain HIV medications;
  • Extra stress;
  • Social isolation;
  • Dwelling on the current feelings of unhappiness.

Practical ways that may ease depression:

  • Seek supportive company;
  • Try to achieve a small task each day;
  • Take things one day at a time;
  • Do something special for yourself;
  • Mild exercise. Eat and sleep sensibly;
  • Talk to a health professional.

Seeking Help

An accurate diagnosis is important to assist in treating and monitoring your depression. There are a number of services available to do this. Many that specialise in HIV and depression will be free of charge.

Your options include:

  • Seeing a GP, counselor or a social worker who will refer you to the appropriate services if extra treatment for your depression is needed
  • Seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist is an option many people choose (a referral is usually required to a psychiatrist)
  • There are other services that deal with these issues indirectly, by providing ongoing support, such as peer support groups
  • There is more than one option available for you.

Helpful Resources

The Alfred HIV Social Work Team

(03) 9276 3026

Positive Health Counselling Services (VAC)

(03) 9865 6700
(2pm - 4pm Duty Worker)

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre Counselor

(03) 9341 6200

Beyond Blue

Ph 1300 22 4636

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