Depression, addiction & pain

Depression can affect anyone, whether or not they have haemophilia. Everyone has bad days, i.e. times when they struggle to cope with the challenges that life throws at them. However, when those days turn into weeks or even months, it can be a sign of depression.

How do I know if I
have depression?

Generally speaking, there are two different types of depression. Situational depression is triggered by external influences (i.e. the end of a relationship, financial worries, etc), and can be resolved by coming to terms/dealing with the problems that have happened. Clinical depression, however, may require anti-depressants to correct it.

There is no single set of symptoms that indicate depression, yet there are several common signs including: a decreased desire to be social, feelings of hopelessness, loss of appetite, fatigue, irritability and anxiety. You might also make less of an effort to look after yourself, taking less pride in your appearance, or not administering your Clotting Factor as often as needed.

What should I do if I’m depressed?

If you think you might be depressed, the best thing you can do is talk to someone you trust (e.g. a friend, relative, teacher or counsellor). It’s also a good idea to see if your Haemophilia Centre offers mental health services, or to talk to your GP.

Treatment for depression can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medication.

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Pain & addiction

Some common over-the-counter painkillers, particularly aspirin and ibuprofen, can increase the frequency and duration of bleeds, because they block the normal function of platelets. Do not take either of these medicines. Also, make sure you check other over-the-counter products, such as cough medicines, for these ingredients.

People with haemophilia are more at risk of becoming addicted to pain medication, because they experience pain that needs to be managed. If you’ve been on prophylaxis all your life, you may not have experienced severe pain as a result of your haemophilia. But, if you have grown up using on-demand treatment and now have target joints, you may have need for regular pain management and are therefore more at risk of becoming dependent to pain medication.

How do I know if I’m addicted to pain medication?

If you are constantly seeking stronger painkillers, often find yourself calling for a refill before your prescription expires, or go to different physicians asking for the same medication, you may be at risk of addiction. If this is the case, you should talk to the healthcare professionals at your Haemophilia Centre about how to manage your pain.

The most important thing you can do if you are worried about an addiction is talk to someone. Family members, Haemophilia Centre teams and other healthcare professionals can help you manage your pain and live a long, healthy and addiction-free life. Maintain regular contact with your Haemophilia Centre, which can advise you on how to manage your pain safely.

All information on this page has been taken from the following sources:
(Last accessed on May 2017)

  • Jones P. Living with Haemophilia (5th Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
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