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Support Groups for Hepatitis C

As helpful as family and friends are, it's still hard for them to understand exactly what you're going through with hepatitis C. You may want to seek out other people living with the virus. You can ask your doctor about support groups in your area. You may also find support groups on the Internet.

But take care in choosing a support group, and switch if the one you joined doesn't feel right. Sometimes, support groups -- especially on the Internet -- can devolve into people trading scary stories that don't reflect the experiences of most people with the disease, cautions Thelma King Thiel, chair and CEO of the Hepatitis Foundation International in Maryland. "Just make sure to find a support group that makes you feel better," she tells WebMD, "rather than one that makes you feel worse."

Hepatitis C and Depression

Psychiatric disorders, including depression, psychosis, and anxiety are more common among people with HCV than the general population. 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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on July 16, 2014
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