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Study Identifies Areas for Mental Health Intervention for Patients with HCV


Treatment for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is lengthy, rigorous, and is associated with side effects that are difficult to manage. In addition to physiological side effects, there also can be significant neuropsychiatric effects such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and suicidality. Moreover, numerous studies have documented the high prevalence of pre-existing psychiatric disorders among patients with HCV: approximately 27-78% of this patient population has been diagnosed with current or past substance abuse, 15-62% with mood disorders, and 30-40% with anxiety disorders. Therefore, increased attention is being paid to the potential usefulness of integrating psychiatric services with standard medical care for patients with HCV.

This article reviews the psychological and psychosocial issues that are relevant to patients with HCV and provides mental health treatment recommendations. Some of these issues include stigma (i.e., more than half diagnosed with HCV have experienced discrimination) and social support. The authors also identify areas in which clinicians can intervene, including adjustment to having a chronic medical illness, management of side effects, and implementing healthy lifestyle recommendations. For example, active drinking accelerates HCV-related liver damage and decreases the effectiveness of drug therapy, and smoking can lead to more rapid progression of the HCV infection. Mental health clinicians should be aware of the challenges inherent in these areas so that they may adequately support patients diagnosed with HCV, as well as those receiving treatment.

PubMed Logo Silberbogen A, Ulloa E, Janke E, and Mori D. Psychosocial issues and mental health treatment recommendations for patients with hepatitis C. Psychosomatics Mar-April 2009;50(2):114-22.

This study was funded by VA. Dr. Janke is part of HSR&D's Center for the Management of Complex Chronic Care in Hines, IL.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.