HIV/AIDS and Mental Health - Dream Health

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Monday 2 December 2013

HIV/AIDS and Mental Health

Effects and Coping

Physical health problems can affect anybody, anywhere, anytime. The same applies to Mental Health. People diagnosed with HIV are more likely to experience mental health problems than others. HIV can cause AIDS which is an immune deficiency disease that compromises the body’s immune system and causes it to break down making it unable to fight infections. It leaves the body weak, vulnerable and unable to cope. This terminal disease brings along with it a lot of psychological issues causing mental health symptoms and illness.

Being diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, a lot of mental health issues accompany such as emotional distress, anxiety, depression and trauma. Strong emotional reactions are produced upon discovering the prevalence of the physical illness. This may range from initial denial to anger, progressing to depression, fear, anxiety and stress. Along with these symptoms, a lot of social symptoms may also occur such as substance abuse and social isolation to cope with the distress. Conflicting emotions arises which makes the person feel stressed, sad, angry ad helpless. Some may even have suicidal thoughts and it is understandable that feelings of helplessness and fear of illness, disability and death may be present.

When people first discover that they are HIV positive they often deal with it by denying the truth. They may believe that the results were not accurate or there was a mix up. This is usually the first natural normal reaction. Once denial doesn’t help a person cope, the next stage is anger where the person feel rage as to why them or why they didn’t know earlier. Dealing with anger is important by talking to others for support, exercising for eliminating these feelings and avoiding circumstances and situations that may make the person feel angry.

Persistent sadness or depression may engulf the person where the person may feel sad, irritated, and hopeless and may also see changes in eating and sleeping patterns. A natural loss of interest may occur and the person may feel tired, worthless and guilty and have difficulty concentration. Depression is twice as common in people with HIV as compared to others. Treatment can be sought to deal with these feelings by psychotherapy, medications and counseling based on the person’s physical and mental condition.

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and panic, accompanied by intensive sweating, shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, nervousness, agitation and headaches. It is often caused by circumstances that result in fear, insecurity and uncertainty which is the discovery of having AIDS in this scenario. Every HIV patient may have a different experience of anxiety and this can be treated by medications and psychotherapy.
Substance abuse is a common presence among people with HIV infection and this unfortunately can trigger and complicate mental health problems.Use of substances can increase the levels of distress, interfere with treatment and can also lead to memory impairment. Addressing this is critical as the symptoms can impersonate mental disorders and other mental health problems.

HIV infection and AIDS affects all the aspects of a person’s life. People with HIV and AIDS are demanded to adapt to a life threatening chronic illness and the associated physical and mental challenges. Coping may seem difficult but it is not impossible. A person can talk to their doctor about treatments for depression and anxiety and can get involved with a support group and find emotional support with family and friends. It is completely normal to have emotional reactions of anxiety, fear and depression but it is important to note that these symptoms are not permanent and help is available with doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, family members, friends, support groups and other services.

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