If you live with HIV, it’s essential to manage your mental health in addition to your physical health.

You can manage your mental health by seeking help from others and making lifestyle changes. Caring for your mental well-being will make it easier to follow your treatment plan and maximize your quality of life.

People living with HIV are more likely to experience mental health conditions than others. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions associated with HIV. You may also experience other conditions like anxiety.

Some signs of depression include:

  • changes to your overall outlook
  • loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • withdrawal from the outside world, including your friends and family
  • changes in your sleep patterns or appetite
  • feeling sick and nothing helps you feel better
  • inability to focus or make decisions
  • feelings of guilt or low self-worth
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • thinking about causing harm on yourself or others

HIV can affect your emotional well-being for several reasons. This may be due to changes that occur within your body from the virus. Outside factors like stigma, relationships, and lack of resources can also contribute to mental health issues.

For example, you may:

  • find it challenging to manage your HIV treatment plan
  • have difficulty identifying or securing resources for your treatment plan
  • experience social stigma or discrimination because of the condition
  • observe changes to your body or abilities because of the condition or treatment

It’s important to be aware of signs that you need support for your mental health. There are many options to treat and reduce mental health symptoms. There are also things that you can do to reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Here are six ways to take care of your mental well-being, which will help you manage your HIV as well.

Living with HIV will include regular visits with your healthcare provider. Make sure to be honest and open about changes to your mental outlook during your appointments.

Your healthcare provider can determine the support you need and make recommendations based on your conversations.

Some ways your healthcare provider can assist you with your mental health include:

  • diagnosing a mental health condition
  • prescribing a medication to treat the mental health condition, such as antidepressants
  • determining if your medications are altering your mental health and adjusting the treatment plan if possible
  • recommending a mental health professional to talk to

Your healthcare provider may recommend you see a mental health professional, or you may seek this help on your own. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists are all professionals who may be able to help you work through your emotions.

One type of psychotherapy that may be useful is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps you recognize negative thoughts. It teaches you how to change them through your behavior.

Reaching out to a family member or friend who you feel comfortable talking about your feelings with may help you cope with mental health symptoms.

It’s normal to feel nervous at first about opening up and sharing. But friends and family members often know you better than anyone and can provide empathy and support.

A support group can put you in touch with people going through similar life experiences or symptoms as you.

Joining a support group for others living with HIV or for those with mental health conditions may improve your well-being.

These groups often meet regularly and are available in-person and online. You can discuss your feelings and challenges and listen to others living with HIV.

Support groups, as well as advocacy groups, can help you identify ways to cope with social stigma or discrimination that may be associated with living with HIV. Advocacy groups also play an important role in bringing awareness to social stigma and reducing it through education.

Here are several resources if you need assistance:

Sharing your experience and offering and receiving support may improve your outlook.

There are many ways to engage in healthy lifestyle activities to improve your mental health. These include:

  • exercising regularly to release endorphins, process emotions, help you sleep, and keep your body active
  • eating healthy, nutritious foods that support your dietary needs
  • getting enough sleep by setting healthy nighttime routines like going to bed at a regular time, powering down electronic devices well before bedtime, and sleeping in a dark, comfortable space
  • engaging in hobbies that you enjoy by signing up for a class, setting up space for the activity in your home, or connecting with others who enjoy that activity
  • cutting back on or eliminating alcohol and drugs

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps you live in the present. A 2014 systematic review found that mindfulness decreased emotional distress in those living with HIV.

You can practice mindfulness by living in the present and enjoying your environment around you, accepting yourself for who you are, or sitting quietly for several minutes while paying attention to your breathing.

You can also find classes for mindfulness or other forms of meditation to help you relax and review.

Exercises like yoga, tai chi, and walks in nature may also help you destress and work through your thoughts and feelings.

It’s important to be able to identify serious changes to your outlook and seek help if you live with HIV. Proper support can help you deal with the challenges you face while living with this condition.

Talking to professionals and friends or family, modifying your day-to-day life, and practicing relaxation methods can all help you improve your mental well-being.

Read this article in Spanish.