The importance of support

Being diagnosed with hepatitis C is a major life change. It is vital that you get advice and information and talk about how this is impacting on you.

Being diagnosed and living with any potentially serious chronic illness is a major life change. It can be a physical, practical, emotional, psychological and spiritual challenge. You are required to learn and understand new information about illness and health. You will also need to deal with new situations, confront feelings, thoughts and beliefs that you may never have had before. Sometimes it can mean lifestyle changes, on either a short-term or long-term basis.

Initial diagnosis or a change in health status can raise fears about the future and bring up thoughts and feelings from the past. You may be given new medical information or asked to make important decisions regarding treatment or health care whilst trying to decide who to tell and what to say. It is a lot to deal with, by any standards.

Trying to make sense of, and coming to terms with what your illness means to you personally takes time, effort and support. In addition, hepatitis C still carries a degree of stigma in our society, which can add considerable weight to the burden of dealing with it.

How could getting support help?

A very powerful way to break that negative cycle is to seek emotional or psychological support. Just being listened to and understood can make a real difference. It can break the sense of isolation and loneliness that often accompanies hepatitis C. Instead of having to cope alone, struggle on, or just 'waiting to feel better', you will be doing something positive for yourself. Doctors and other practitioners can treat or monitor your hepatitis C, but you will be doing everything you can to live with it.

As people feel more supported, they are usually able to think more clearly, communicate better, make healthier decisions, and generally manage their life and health more efficiently. Less stress can mean fewer symptoms or better management of symptoms, which then means less stress - and so the negative cycle becomes a positive one.


When is a good time to seek support?

There is no 'right' time to seek emotional or psychological support. You do not have to wait until you are feeling depressed or stressed. It is perfectly possible to benefit from emotional support at any time. It may just be a way of feeling better about yourself and your life than you already do.

Feeling isolated, helpless or alone is an excellent reason to seek out some hepatitis C support. In addition, if you find yourself persistently experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms of stress and depression, it is a good idea to look for professional help:

  • Feeling numb, anxious, panicky, angry, or weepy all the time
  • Losing interest in life generally
  • Feeling tired and 'dull' all the time
  • Changes in appetite (eating too little or too much)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (waking up early, insomnia, oversleeping)
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Constant self-criticism or 'feeling bad about yourself’
  • Loss of concentration
  • Finding yourself caught up in addictive or self-destructive behaviours

Some of these, such as tiredness, loss of concentration, lowered sex drive, and changes in sleep and eating patterns, can also be physiological effects of your hepatitis C.

The symptoms of chronic hepatitis and those of depression can be confusingly similar. One can often impact on the other. It’s worth taking a two-pronged approach wherever possible.

You may also find that extra support is important around times of change, or potential change. Diagnosis, tests, treatment, the period following treatment, relapse or any other change in health status can be particularly stressful times. Such times can be made less stressful with appropriate support. The same is true for times when non-hepatitis C related areas of your life are impacted by your health.

Other information that might be useful