Not every day can be filled with joy and laughter. But if the stretch of grey days seems endless, you may be facing something more serious.

Depression is a gender and HIV issue. Women are diagnosed with depression at much higher rates than men, and people living with HIV experience elevated rates of depression. High rates of depression are found among women living with HIV. Depression can be caused by life events, chemical changes in the brain, health conditions including HIV, and medication side effects.

Symptoms

  • feeling sad, miserable, or anxious
  • feeling numb, distant, or empty
  • feeling worthless, hopeless, or despairing
  • feeling easily irritated or angry
  • having low energy
  • having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • having no desire to eat or eating more than usual
  • losing interest in activities or people that you used to like
  • thinking about self-harm, death, or suicide

Coping and Treatment

Here are some ideas for dealing with depression.

  • Talk with someone you trust. This might be a close family member, friend, support worker, or therapist.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Work on going to bed and getting up at the same hours every day. Consistency can help you get a quality sleep, which makes all the difference.
  • Exercise. Physical activity can boost your energy level and stimulate chemicals in your body that lift your mood. You don’t even need to do anything vigorous. Try going for a walk, taking a swim, or doing some gentle yoga.
  • Get a little sunshine. Try to enjoy some natural light every day. Take a stroll, go for a bike ride, relax on a balcony, or sit on a bench.
  • Get into nature. Time spent with trees, bodies of water, and animals can put you in a different frame of mind.
  • Practise stress-reduction techniques. Try journalling, listening to or playing music, yoga, acupuncture, or meditation.
  • Stay involved. Sometimes we need to be alone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But try not to withdraw from the world completely. Hanging out with people can unexpectedly lift your mood.
  • Consider therapy. Some women check in with their therapist when they feel a bout of depression coming on. Others find that they need regular sessions. Some kinds of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy, have proven especially useful for treating depression. Remember that if you don’t feel comfortable with one therapist or type of therapy, there are others you can try.
  • Speak with your doctor about medication. Some women with depression respond best to anti-anxiety medication in combination with other coping strategies. Because medications can interact with antiretroviral treatment, be sure to speak with your doctor before starting anything new. Even herbal remedies can interact with antiretroviral drugs.