HIV and Mental Health
HIV and mental health are deeply correlated. It has been studied that in most cases, poor mental health makes a person more vulnerable to HIV. On the other hand, the disease also has direct effect on the patient's mental health.
Therefore, HIV and mental health are a two way order, entwined with each other. HIV prevalence in mentally disturbed patients and out patients is 23%, while for the rest of the population; the percentage is just 0.4%. This is because; people with mental illness are more prone to indulge in highly risked behavioral activities than the general population. Tendencies for committing risky behavior that leads to HIV contraction is around 50% in those people who are mentally ill. Although, one cannot conclude that these behavioral trends are not at all found in a mentally stable HIV patient, these behaviors are significantly more common in those who are mentally disturbed or unstable.
Risky behaviors that may be pertained to HIV contraction include:
- Drug abuse: Drug abuse is a common trait amongst those who are frustrated, socially abandoned, and with turbulent family background. All these factors mount to mental instability. Indulgence in drugs takes the patient to a state of trance that relieves him from his worldly disturbances. This can anytime, addict the person to injection of drugs with the help of syringes, and that leaves the risk of HIV contraction on any unfortunate day, when the syringe is contaminated by infected blood.
- Sexual Contact with multiple partners (male of female): Loyalty to a single partner, irrespective of his sexual orientation, is harmless in most cases. Commitment is also a sign of mental stability. Infidelity however denotes the opposite traits like frustration, perversion etc, that in many cases may be counted as mental illness. These acts increase the risk of HIV.
- Sexual abuse: Most men, who indulge in sexual abuses and rapes, are mentally ill. However, these acts also contribute to the contraction of HIV.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol: The reason behind consumption of alcohol is very similar to that of drug abuse. However, impact of alcohol can reduce a person's sense of judgment and risky sexual act. Excessive alcohol abuse is several times more prevalent in HIV positive people than the general population.
The points discussed above, denotes the relationship between HIV and mental health disorder that pre-existed within the patients. However, there many direct impacts of HIV on the patient's mental health.
- Most HIV patients start suffering from excessive depression and anxiety (learn about depression & its symptoms), the moment they discover their HIV positive status. This is because of the psychological pressure associated with HIV like no recovery and inevitable death.
- The social castration, discrimination and stigmatization associated with HIV, fans the fire a step more.
- Other psychological disorders commonly related to HIV are suicidal tendencies, hopelessness, paranoia and more intense substance abuse.
HIV and mental health are also dependent on the impact of the disease on the central nervous system, causing several neuro-psychiatric disorders like
- HIV Encephalopathy causing behavioral abnormalities
- Cognitive disorders like loss of memory and analyzing power.
Frank dementia leading to loss of vision, depression and degeneration of brain stem, Diplopia (one can see two images of one single object) and Dysarthria (speech disorder).
Therefore, HIV and mental health are related in terms of the psychological history of the patient and the impact of the disease on him.
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