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Young and Depressed

Sep 26, 2011

I'm a 17 yr old girl and in June I was diagnosed with HIV. In July I found out that my viral load was 22,000 and my cd-4 count was 364, My doctor started me on medicine and I've been doing ok with the side effects - they're not too bad. I live with my father (my mother past away in 2008) and he doesn't quite understand what I'm going through. The doctor tried to explain it to him, but he's 67 and doesn't get things. When I try to tell him something about how I'm feeling or something about HIV he gets really angry and yells. I've been really stressed out because of that reason and others, including school and getting ready for college. I was wondering if there's any way to deal with stress and depression without getting on meds?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Being diagnosed with HIV is a huge life event that impacts an entire family. Everyone reacts with a variety of strong feelings, including being numb, depressed, and angry. You are still in the process of sorting out your feelings -- the stress and depression you are experiencing is totally normal.

There are many ways to deal with it. It is really important that you find a support group with whom you can share your experiences and emotions. If you have access to other young people with HIV it would be ideal, but any support group is effective. You might also identify a trusted counselor/advisor at school, or a therapist in the community, with whom you could speak one-to-one about your stress. Your doctor can help you find such a person. They understand the many feelings that come up and the need to identify and express them. Remember, you are not doing this alone. There are many people out there who care and can help. Your job is to build a support system by finding them and reaching out to them.

Hopefully you will find that the stress and depression improves with these actions. Antidepressants can be effective although they are not ideal for an adolescent and shouldn't be the first choice. I'm glad you are looking for other ways to feel better. I am very impressed with your strength and desire to work through these feelings. I have every confidence you will find the support you need and in the process help not only yourself but others as well.

Take care,


Dr. Bob
Dealing With death

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