How to Handle Hep C Stigma

Learn to cope with the emotional effects of hepatitis C.

With hepatitis C, your battle might be much more than physical. People with hep C often feel like they're also fighting an unseen emotional enemy -- stigma.

Stigma against hep C stems from misinformation about how the illness is spread. Some people may be judgmental of people with hep C because they think they're promiscuous or drug abusers. But the truth is there are many ways people can become infected.

How Can Stigma Affect You?

A small survey done in 2015 found that half of people with hepatitis have faced discrimination. After disclosing their illness, one in 10 people with hep C lost their jobs, one quarter had family members avoid physical contact with them and one quarter were no longer invited to social events by friends. Romantic relationships were affected for about one third of people who told their partners about their status.

How to Cope with Stigma

While you might feel like you can't change how the entire world views hep C, there are small steps you can take to help educate those close to you and feel better about your health.

Check in with yourself. If you want others to have the right attitude about hep C, you should make sure you also have the right attitude. Try not to blame yourself for your illness. Feeling guilty or shameful about your condition won't help you get any better. You can change your mind set by visualizing a healthy future, and making a point to be grateful for the good things in your life. Having a positive outlook about your condition will encourage others to do the same.

Tell those you trust. You should have full control over who knows about your hep C. If you're afraid of what people will think of your condition, you may want to limit who you tell to only people you know will always love and respect you.

Choose your words wisely. Practice how you want to talk to others about your condition. Consider saying phrases like, "I live with hep C and will one day beat it," rather than, "I suffer from hep C." Feeling prepared to answer questions about your illness will make you more confident to share your experience.

Educate others (and yourself). Once you've decided you want to tell someone about your status, take the time to tell them about what hep C is -- and isn't. Try to be patient with people who have preconceived notions or simply don't know anything about the condition. The time you take to pass on accurate information can help spare others from being judged.

Join a support group. Check your local hospital or online to see if there is a place for you to meet up with other people who have hep C. During these group discussions, you can talk openly about your experience without fear of judgment. You might also be able to pick up other coping tactics that have worked well for others. If there aren't any meet-ups near you, check out online forums where people from across the globe share their hep C journeys.

If you still need help coping with your hepatitis, talk to your doctor. You might want to look into seeing a therapist, or changing your treatment plan so you can feel better physically and mentally.

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