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Living With Hepatitis C

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Hepatitis C and Depression

Psychiatric disorders, including depression, psychosis, and anxiety are more common among people with HCV than among people without HCV. And, HCV is found to be eleven times more common among people with psychiatric disorders than among those without psychiatric disorders. These findings suggest a strong association between brain dysfunction and HCV, an area that is currently being studied.

Pegylated interferon may cause depression, irritability, confusion, emotional instability, and lack of concentration. People who are prone to these symptoms will benefit from beginning an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication prior to commencing pegylated interferon therapy. In fact, it is advisable for most people (including those with no prior psychological problems) to begin one of these medications prior to beginning therapy in order to prevent or diminish potential psychiatric symptoms from occurring. In this manner, treatment is most likely to continue uninterrupted, and the recommended dosage and duration of therapy are more likely to be adhered to. Most important, a person should never feel reluctant or embarrassed to seek support from a psychological counselor or psychiatric doctor. Obtaining as much additional help as possible is strongly recommended. Those people who have a psychiatric condition or who experience severe psychiatric side effects while on pegylated interferon regimens should be managed jointly by a liver specialist and a psychiatrist. People who suffer from severe depression along with suicidal thoughts, who have made suicide attempts, or who suffer from psychosis (delusions and hallucinations) should avoid therapy until their underlying psychiatric problems have stabilized and any suicidal thoughts have abated.

Some people with hepatitis C see a therapist to help them cope. Ask your doctor to refer you to someone who specializes in treating people with chronic diseases.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melissa Palmer, MD on June 23, 2012
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