Healthy Mind

The mind is important to one’s overall health. Mental health (that is having a healthy or unhealthy mind) is linked to physical health (the health of your body).  Just as there are specially trained persons to treat illnesses in your body, there are also specially trained persons such as a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, to help you or your loved ones with a mind that is not well.

A person with a healthy mind:

  • Realizes his/ her abilities
  • Can cope with the normal stresses of life
  • Can work productively and fruitfully
  • Is able to make a contribution to his/ her community

What causes the mind to be unhealthy?

Some mental health problems in persons living with HIV occurred before they had HIV, some occur as a result of crises in a person’s life, some as a result of substance misuse or abuse, some mental health problems are hereditary (are a part of the person’s family history). Mental health problems can also be related to HIV infection. The HIV virus itself, some opportunistic infections, some drugs and treatments can also affect the mind. In some cases, a person’s emotional reaction to finding out they are HIV positive can persist for a long time and cause the mind to be unhealthy. Some of the common reactions include: fear, uncertainty, shame, anger, blame, guilt. These emotions can lead to anxiety and depression which has been found to be very common in HIV infected people.

Signs of Anxiety:

  • Cannot eat
  • Cannot breathe
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Heart pounding fast
  • Tingling in the hands or feet
  • Cannot sleep
  • Cannot concentrate on anything
  • Feel “jumpy” or “stressed”
  • Feel worried about many things

Signs of Depression:

  • Feel like you just do not know what to do (helpless or hopeless)
  • Really tired with no energy
  • Cannot find good in anything
  • Do not enjoy the things you used to
  • Sleep too much or not enough
  • Get angry for no reason
  • Cannot eat or eat too much
  • Do not feel like being social with friends or family
  • Do not feel like having sex
  • Talk about running away
  • Think about suicide (killing yourself)

Each person should try to have a healthy mind. If you or someone you know has not learned to cope with living with HIV or are having problems with Mental Health:

  • Speak with a member of your health care team
  • Speak with someone you trust
  • Speak with a counsellor or another mental health professional

Taking steps to deal with your mental health is one way to live positively with HIV.

References

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm . Accessed January 7, 2015
  2. The Comprehensive Peer Educator Training Curriculum: Trainer Manual International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, Columbia University