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Depression can be successfully treated so don’t delay asking for help.

What is depression?

Depression is a clinical illness which can become serious and impact your ability to function in everyday life if left untreated.

Some people describe it as ‘paralysing’ and it can stop them enjoying the company of their loved ones or from going to work. 

Is depression more common among people with HIV?

Although anyone can suffer from depression, it is twice as common among those of us who are HIV positive. Around one in three people living with HIV have some symptoms of depression at some point in their lives.

Despite these figures, depression is not an inevitable aspect of HIV infection but it could be triggered if you feel anxious or uncertain about your future.

It is possible that you could suffer from depression without realising it. 

What are the symptoms of depression?

If you experience most or all of these symptoms on a daily basis for several weeks you may be depressed:

  • low mood
  • apathy
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • early waking or oversleeping
  • inability to relax
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • loss of pleasure in usual activities
  • feelings of low self-worth
  • excessive guilt
  • recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

What should I do if I think I might have depression?

Mental health professionals with experience in helping HIV positive patients are the best people to talk to about how to tackle depression.

Depression is often treated with counselling or psychotherapy, sometimes used alongside medication.

Side effects of anti-depressant medication should be monitored carefully to ensure that your HIV treatment is not affected, but most prescribed drugs have little or no interaction with regular medication.

As well as this approach, if you think your depression is quite mild, you could try increasing your mental activity – taking up a new hobby, planning a trip or spending time with people who make you feel good are all great ways to make yourself feel better.

Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. Depression is becoming more treatable all the time, for example in 2006 50% of people with depression were cured and 80% improved.

Finally, depression can make you feel very isolated and alone – but you don’t have to be alone. Contact THT Direct, use our Service Finder.

You can also talk to one of our Online Counsellors - it's a free, confidential service available to all HIV positive users of myHIV who live in the UK.



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 31/10/2012 by P. Kelly

Date due for the next review: 31/10/2014

Content Author: S. Ellis

Current Owner: S. Ellis

More information:

Bartlett, J.G. & Finkbeiner, A.K. (2006) The Guide to Living with HIV Infection. The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore and London

Department of Health and Human Services (2002) Depression and HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Mental Health. 

Depression, NAMLife

Top four needs of people with HIV in the UK all related to mental health, NAM (2009)

Mental health and growing up, Royal College of Psychiatrists (2009)

Statistics on mental health, Mental Health Foundation (2006)

Serious depression may affect one quarter of people with HIV, HIV Treatment Alerts (2010)

Depression in Patients With HIV Is Under-Diagnosed: A Cross-Sectional Study in Denmark, The Body (2010)



NHS Choices: Living with depression

Depression in Patients With HIV Is Under-Diagnosed: A Cross-Sectional Study in Denmark HIV Treatment Alerts (2010)