Cirrhosis and depression : I was... - British Liver Trust

British Liver Trust

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Cirrhosis and depression

wilmawemyss profile image

I was wondering if anyone else has experienced extremely low mood with all the conditions associated with having cirrhosis. I am only 9 weeks sober and feel like I have hit a brick wall. My itching is unbearable, chronic fatigue and aches and pains all over. How have others managed to get through these difficult times and maintained their sobriety. I feel like the quality of life I have right now is not worth it. Please let me know your own experience of how you dealt with the difficult times and how you got through it.

33 Replies
Trust5 profile image


I am sure you will get supportive messages from fellow forum users. I think you are going through what a lot of people feel but don't always admit to and it is courageous of you to admit to how you are feeling. You have done so well so far. It is important that your medical team/GP know how you are feeling at the moment - physically and emotionally.

We are all rooting for you, that brick wall will come tumbling down eventually.


wilmawemyss profile image
wilmawemyss in reply to Trust5

Thank you

When you believe that part your body is failing and you lose the ability to do the things that make you, you - your sense of who you are can be compromised.

Chronic illness can push you into a great deal of change whether you like it or not, so much so that one often has to get know a new version of oneself. This is even more true, when we are learning about a new illness and this process has to be done without one's usual prop of alcohol. There can even be a kind of mourning as you acknowledge the permanence of the loss of one's old lifestyle. Throw in feeling physically rubbish with some very challenging symptoms and the process is doubly hard.

Do remember this is a journey for both your body and your mind. It's sounds perverse but going without booze feels worse than drinking too much, for some months after giving up. It gets easier and the rewards have yet to come for you.

They will come. They will be significant and will surprise you.

You are already succeeding.

Very true and well put.

This may sound like a stupid question, but if your mood was being changed because of a chemical reaction in your body, do you think it would help you feel any better in knowing what might be the cause?

I ask this as sometimes when we understand the reason behind something we can get a sort of closure and acceptability.

I see from some of your previous posts you speak of Aches and back pain. There is a possibility that because of these pains, your bodies immune system can become overactive. There are certain inflammatory proteins that the immune system releases. These are Macrophage proteins that act like foot soldiers that go in search of any invading viruses, and then there are the Cytokines. These are the proteins that destroy any invading organisms.

When a person is in constant pain such as arthritis then the immune system is working overtime trying to repair any damage and fight off any infection.

It has recently been discovered that these Cytokines can cross over the blood-brain barrier and alter a person’s mood. It has been found that this can also bring about and cause depression. In some cases, depression can be treated with the use of anti-inflammatories instead of antidepressants.

This video from Prof Ed Bullmore’s book “The Inflamed Mind” may help to explain this better:

I hope this is of some help. It may not be the answer, but it may be worth thinking about.

Good luck (even though we are a tough bunch, us senior citizens need help sometimes too)


Thank you Richard, that was very interesting, worth a discussion with my doctor

Montys profile image
Montys in reply to Richard-Allen

I will look into this too. Thank you 👍

Firstly be proud of yourself that you have managed to stay off alcohol for 9 weeks. My Hepatologist said to me that I didn't get Cirrhosis overnight and therefore wan't going to show any improvement overnight either. Not wanting to upset you, but it actually took me 18 months before I felt 'normal'. You have made the most important decision and that is to stay off the booze. Listen to your body, if you are tired then sleep. I have suffered with horrendous fatigue and have had anemia a few times. This is why blood tests are so important. Also the life saver for my fatigue is B12 tablets. It was a number of years before I was prescribed them, but they have definitely made a difference. Yes I still get really tired, but this is just one of the side effects of cirrhosis.I would contact the GP regarding your itching as I have read on here that a cream can be prescribed to combat this.

Regarding your depression, I think everyone can suffer with it regardless of their health issues. When you get told by a Dr in hospital that you may not be alive in 6 months and if you make 6 months then you may still not be alive at the end of it. That was what I was told, so my personal fight began. I wasn't going to die from drinking any more alcohol, no way. You have to be strong and use your willpower and seek support if you require it, there are lots of support groups out there. I've done it without any help, but I have been offered therapy more than once. If that's what you need, try it, it works for some and not others. At the end of the day, I'd got myself into this state through drinking and so I was going to do my best to get out of it. I personally don't have time to be depressed, life is for living and my days are so busy. But you are still at an early stage in your recovery, therefore please speak with your medical team.

It's not an easy road, but please try and be strong and patient, as here I am 9 years on, no alcohol and living a relatively 'normal' life. There is a life with Cirrhosis and I and many others are proof of this. Take care and take a day at a time.

wilmawemyss profile image
wilmawemyss in reply to Oscar21

Thank you for your comments, as you say it took a long time to get this ill, so recovery is going to be a long process

Congratulations on making the major changes needed to get better. And it will get better for many people - why not you? I have read that sometimes a significant recovery can take even two or more years. I think that is GOOD news. If someone had told me it would "just be a few weeks" and after six months I still had problems I would be very scared. But knowing that it can take longer will make me say "Hey that's cool, I'm getting better every day and I'm not even half way there". So take it easy, see if a doctor can help you with some of the discomfort and most importantly stay optimistic.

Let me also clarify that if you feel REALLY bad then by all means take action and don't write it off as "no, I have to let it have more time", but you have to judge that, how bad is it. Again, doctors and the British Liver Trust are there to help you.

You are going in the right direction, I salute you!

Charlie-legs profile image
Charlie-legs in reply to Oscar21

Well done 👍 I also took the bull by the horns. Will be 2 years in December ( except for half of a G&T can) I have done it without meds and being stubborn!👍

Hi. To be brutally honest. It's unbelievably tough. For what it's worth, take it one day at a time and don't press the oh f..k this' button!! All the best.💪💪

The itching comes and goes. You just have to bear with it. I had a new liver 2 years ago. The itching went instantly.

Montys profile image
Montys in reply to Chris1954

Whoa!! A full transplant! All the best for the future


Hello! Well done on your 9 weeks sobriety. Even though my husbands problem wasn't adiction/problem drinking so many folks told us he'd feel like a new man after 6 weeks and it just wasn't the case. He just carried on feeling worse and worse for a long time. We did feel quite discouraged. I only wish that folks had told us in the first place it would take so long. In his case, his painkiller/prescription medications were causing a lot of his problems and after they were removed ( don't do this without GP) He started to notice a difference quicker. Good luck on your journey and please stick with it for your loved ones sakes as well as your own.

Kind regards


It's definitely worth it although I know exactly how you feel as the first few months - maybe longer - after my diagnosis of cirrhosis and stopping drinking I was a mess mentally and my body itched relentlessly and much much more. Beyond discussing your mood and feelings with a GP getting support is crucial which is why posting is a great move.I joined a recovery organisation near where I live and one of the staff (also an ex-problem drinker) said "are you enjoying recovery or enduring it?" This was the turning point for me as I realised the way I was thinking or interacting with my thoughts was causing me a lot of turmoil and I didn't know how to "live sober". I started going to relapse prevention groups which were pretty small numerically, had a trained facilitator, a theme each time and were fun as well as informative and interactive.

I've now been sober for over three years and in that time despite cirrhosis I've spent a month in West Africa where my wife was born, started a support group on Facebook for people with ARLD which now has 320 members (you'd be very welcome to join!), volunteered at British Liver Trust roadshows and am about to take my driving test!

I'm not saying any of this to boast but to say that with time, patience and support you may be surprised at the positive changes - and things you achieve - just like I've been.

ciroze_05 profile image
ciroze_05 in reply to Phil_1972

what group is that? i want to join pls

Phil_1972 profile image
Phil_1972 in reply to ciroze_05

I'll send you the link in a message.

Dogbot profile image
Dogbot in reply to Phil_1972

Well done you and very well put 👍

Montys profile image
Montys in reply to Phil_1972

Beautiful 😍

Hi, good on you. Stick with it with all you can muster daily. Do sleep when you need to, a duvet day is good for you!!💤 With winter coming l plan to hibinate . I stopped at the beginning of the first lockdown and I think that I was only 4 or 5 weeks out of hospital. I took up crocheting and now I am addicted to that now instead. Keep strong x

Dogbot profile image
Dogbot in reply to Charlie-legs

Well done you and to get a hobby is definitely the answer 👍

I know we are all different, but my liver issues have turned me the other way. My mood is better than it has been for a long time. I have 21 other health conditions, many serious. I died twice when first diagnosed. I have had 18 gastroscopies and over 70 varicles banded, but I wake up each morning glad to be alive. I do sometimes think why me, especially as I have never drunk alcohol, but I give myself a good talking to and enjoy the rest of my day to the best of my ability. X

Hi, i'm also in my 9th week 'dry' and i've also felt that i ache (physically hurt, shoulder, arm, joints, lower back etc) more now than before i quit, although the itchiness and swelling to my ankles has gone, so you are not alone. I'm hoping that things will get better as i get fitter/stronger and try and remember it is only early days in a long journey (it took me 40 yrs of heavy drinking to get this ill so why do i think it's going to get much better in 2 months or so). I also sometimes think that i was probably just as much in pain back then, but the booze was numbing it during the evening and night when i'd had a beer or few (rose tinted glasses effect) :) I suppose if it was that easy to quit, many of us wouldn't be where we are now in the first place. Anyway i just wanted you to know you are not alone and the 'symptoms' we are getting are normal and in some perverse way the body letting us know things are changing.

Hi 👋

Stay Strong

Stay Focused - (off the alcohol)

Stay Positive....IT WILL GET BETTER! The itching is horrible I understand how you feel.

Most importantly, Stay as Smiley 😃 as you can, NEVER GIVE UP!!

You CAN do this!!

Take good smiley care xXx

Well done you keep at it it does get easier trust me I’m 18 years sober try to find a hobby if you can it helps to fill in the hour’s you spent drinking and drunk ,keep it up 👍

Hi just like to say I take my hat off to you for starting the journey of sobriety but I’m afraid it does come with some discomfort. I can promise you it’s really worth it, I always say to people it’s like travelling a long road there is bumps in it but take it all a day at a time if possible find a hobby. Not boasting just saying it can be done I’m 18 years sober it’s really worth it good luck for your journey. 👍Stay Safe All

Dogbot 🐶🌈

Thank you for all your kind messages, it really helps to know that you are not alone. A lot of inspirational stories and experiences. I am getting a lot of support from this forum 👍

How you doing?

Hi Wilma

I have been depressed for 6 months and when I was diagnosed with hep c recently, my consultant said it could be attributed to liver disease. I thought about it and I think, perhaps my mind recognised my body was not well, even though I did not notice. So it affected my mood.

We all must fight on 2 fronts, the physical and the mental, only we can fight the physical but talking to others on here helps us fight the mental battle, the depression, the worry and the loneliness. There will always be moments when we feel at our lowest point but that is when we need a forum like this to remind us of the good things. As others have said, you are doing incredibly well, 9 weeks is amazing. To get through the first week is a huge brick wall to overcome, you did that 2 months ago.

My moods are like a roller coaster and I am so grateful that I found this site, because, when I thought I was plummeting downwards forever, some people here pushed me back up to the top again.

We are all here for support, to give and to receive so when you need to vent, to cry or chat and feel less alone... this is the place.

Yes, yes, yes. And it can get sooooo much better, I promise. Been there, really.

Liver disease and depression are tightly connected. Aside from the stress of the change and detox, there are chemical issues at work. Stress also wreaks havoc on the liver, so that's part of unwinding that takes time.

Because when the liver isn't functioning well, it isn't feeding the brain the necessary fats, and the chemistry gets out of whack. Supplements can help a lot. CoQ10 is my go to, also almonds and cashews. (the link about the inflammed brain is on point).

Same thing goes for the fatigue. It's not processing the glucosamine that provides the energy for the cells, particularly the mitochondria.

In 2020, I couldn't get out of bed longer than it took to attend a meeting for work. One investor call, and I was out for the day. Deep depression.

Very soon I will be IPO-ing my company and we are quite focused on how these processes work in the body. My chief scientific officer is a UCSF neuroimmunologist. Just trying to give some context that this is not woo-woo.

Also, though, take it seriously. In my case, an integrative health specialist was way more help than my GP.

By the way, liver patients are often told they need a lot of protein. The research out of pubmed does not show this to be the case. In fact, it can worsen the load on the liver. Wish I could tell you everything I've learned over the past year.

Life is very good now, but I would have found that hard to believe for months after my diagnosis.

If ya can get baclofen..may chill yer out ..pamper and nature is a cure and comedy..milk thistle..soak ya feet ..

I do understand your pain and frustration first hand. I have experienced this more times than I could count.. I relapsed soon after finding out I had cirrhosis, last year, and now have returned to recovery 6 months ago. Everyone does it differently as my recovery and 12 step groups are vital to me!!! . I think it's more just hearing the others share their experience, strength, and hope that is so encouraging! I deal with a lot of fatigue and feeling lethargic at times. (Could be some of my mental health meds) But I assure you I already feel so much better than I did 6 months ago. Even though after my diagnosis and my wanting to escape reality was only a temporary fix. Quickly I started getting MORE depressed, MORE discouraged, MORE angry, along with paranoid and completely hopeless! It took me to such a dark place that I hope to NEVER return to!!! So when I start getting off balance or down and think "it would be nice to escape" I remember where that thinking will take me. So what I want you to know is that there is HOPE!!! And things WILL get better...and I am SO proud of you!!! Just take it one day at a time!!! And if you do slip...just remember each day is a new day to start over, make new decisions, and to try again. I support you on your journey...🌺

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