February 27th, 2014
Living with hep C can be extremely stressful. There are so many different emotions that a person faces after being diagnosed, from how to adjust to a liver-friendly way of life, to weighing up when to break the news to loved ones.
General awareness and understanding of hepatitis C is missing from society today. Sadly, too many people experience fear and stigma from people who learn of their condition. Many people associate hepatitis C with unsafe drug use, and they often assume that the virus is highly contagious. In light of this, people struggle with the uncertainty of whether to disclose their HCV status to those close to them. Consequently, they often suffer in silence. This can be very stressful, as the ongoing anxiety caused by discrimination is something that nobody should have to endure.
Trying to stay healthy and protect your liver can be particularly difficult. With different people saying different things about liver health it can be difficult to know what advice to follow.
The symptoms of hepatitis C can sometimes be overwhelming, which can cause severe stress. This is often described as a hep C attack or a clustering of symptoms. When an attack happens, it can include a worsening of fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sweating, headaches, depression and helplessness and all the other symptoms we all hate so much.
Stress can affect the immune system by decreasing the production of white blood cells. This reduces the body’s ability to fight infections. Stress is known to cause an increase of blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. For those living with hepatitis C, abnormal levels of stress can potentially alter the liver’s function. In particular, exposure to ongoing stress has been shown to reduce liver blood flow.
Interestingly, stress affects different people in different ways. Are you the kind of person that suffers from stress? Maybe you aren’t even aware of it. Or perhaps you are someone who is mindful of stress, careful not to let it become an ongoing problem. Either way, it is impossible to avoid stress altogether. Fortunately, there are positive steps and healthy ways of dealing with it that can bring relief.
If you feel overwhelmed by stress, then consult your healthcare professional or liver specialist to discuss the possibility of stress management.
You can read more about stress management with hepatitis C here