HIV and emotional wellness

Depression

Everyone experiences short periods of feeling sad or down at some time, but some people develop states of sadness, helplessness and the inability to enjoy things for long periods of time. These states are often accompanied by low energy, problems sleeping, eating or concentrating, and even feelings of wanting to commit suicide. This is known as depression.

Depression is a common emotional health challenge for people living with HIV. We are more likely than people in the general population to develop depression, with some studies finding up to 80% of people with HIV having suffered from anxiety and/or depression. And, among people living with HIV, depression appears to be more common among women than men.

[After my diagnosis, I] became very depressed over the next year and felt suicidal, but I realized that I did have some close friends who really cared for me, and that stopped me. If I had made contact with the AIDS service organization earlier, I might not have spiraled into such a deep depression.”

—Terry

Depression limits our quality of life and can often affect our ability to care for our health, making it harder to take our anti-HIV drugs as prescribed and leading to problems with substance use and/or unsafe sex.

Many factors can contribute to depression, such as a family history of depression, experiences of loss, being socially isolated without the support of friends and family, certain medications taken by people living with HIV, or the consequences of prolonged use of street drugs.

 

Setting small goals can help when you’re depressed

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Bathe, brush your teeth, comb your hair and get dressed daily when you get out of bed.
  • If possible, leave the house and go out for a short walk every day.
  • Have short but frequent contact with good friends.
  • Engage in activities that you can start or stop easily, such as grocery shopping or some light exercise.
  • As much as possible, limit the amount of caffeine, alcohol and street drugs you consume.