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a woman living with hiv and seeking treatment for mental health

HIV and Seeking Treatment for My Mental Health

Over the years since my diagnosis, I have learned to closely guard my mental health. Learning to discuss my mental health with healthcare providers has been very important.

I have worked with my primary care physician, psychiatrists, and psychologists to treat my mental health.

My symptoms of depression

After my diagnosis experience, I felt depression taking over my life. Some of the symptoms of depression that I experienced included:

  • Constant sadness
  • Frequent irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Decreased appetite
  • Loss of weight

When these symptoms lasted for over a month, I knew I had to talk to my primary care physician.

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Follow-up with my primary care physician

During my regularly scheduled follow-up appointment, I brought all of my symptoms up with my doctor. We discussed my symptoms and how long I had been dealing with them. she was very understanding of my feelings. Considering I had recently been diagnosed with HIV, she understood why I would be battling with depression.

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I believe I was lucky that I already had an established relationship with my primary care physician. This made me more comfortable in discussing my mental health situation.

First prescription

The first prescription we tried is an old antidepressant called Trazadone. We tried this one first because it is known for causing drowsiness. This allows the medication to treat some insomnia cases.

While the Trazadone improved my ability to fall asleep, my other depression symptoms did not improve.

Second prescription

After trying Trazadone, we switched to Elavil (also known as amitriptyline). When I was a teenager and diagnosed with endometriosis, my specialist put me on this prescription to help me deal with living in chronic pain.

Unfortunately, after several months my depression symptoms still had not improved.

Seeking a Specialist

I made the decision that it was time to try seeing a mental health specialist. I found a list of psychologists and psychiatrists that were in the network of my insurance. At my first appointment, I found it so strange to try to open up to a stranger about such private thoughts and feelings.

It was much more difficult than talking with my primary care physician.


I knew I needed to see a psychiatrist. My hope was that a psychiatrist could prescribe medications that would work better than my primary care physician. Once the psychiatrist understood my situation, she was very sympathetic.

I wish I could say that the first medication was what worked for me, but that is not the case. We tried several medications before finding an antidepressant that helped me.


I think talking with the psychologist was the hardest out of all of the doctors. It was hard to know where to start and to be comfortable telling a stranger my deepest darkest feelings and thoughts. Luckily the therapists are trained for this situation and knew how to guide me.

I ended up bonding well with my therapist. She did not change how she treated me once I informed her about my HIV status. This was my biggest concern at the time. Honestly, I still have anxiety around disclosure but that is a personal issue that I am working on.

This or That

Which type of therapy do you prefer?

Where is my mental health now?

It has been several years, but I am still under treatment for my mental health. I still take medication and talk to a psychologist. While things have improved for me, there is a long ways for me to go before I get where I want to be.

Have you sought treatment for your mental health? Please share if you feel up to it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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