HIV Anxiety

I feel numb! My muscles are painful! My mouth is dry! Are these related to STIs? Do I have HIV? Am I going crazy? Please help me doctor! 

These are the most common questions one would ask when they had a risky encounter recently. So? Do they really have STI? Do these symptoms actually mean you are positive for HIV?

Little do people know, HIV is not the only condition one should be worried about. Many other infections can be passed along during unprotected intercourse.  If you fear the possibility of HIV/STD so much so that you are unable to cope with everyday life, then it is possible you have an anxiety disorder. Read to find out more!

Pre-test Anxiousness 

From the time we were kids till now, when we hear the word “test” we get agitated easily (unless you love exams). What’s more, when this test can actually affect the way we go on living. 

A study was done in 2018 to find out which group actually has a higher percentage of those with anxiety and depression, was it the pre-HIV test group or tested positive HIV  group? Guess what! The results showed that many individuals may have symptoms of common mental disorders even prior to HIV testing. Okay, so what does this mean? If I were to put in a simple way, NO, you are not going crazy, you just have some anxiety symptoms! Now you might ask, what are the commonest anxiety symptoms? 

Listed below are the most forenamed:

  • Suddenly scared for no reason
  • Headaches
  • Feeling low in energy
  • Loss of sexual interest
  • Poor appetite
  • Shakiness
  • Heart pounding
  • Easily sweats

Sounds a lot like most of us isn’t it? Bare in mind, having all or neither one of the symptoms really does not mean anything. The only way to ease your mind it to move. Go and get yourself tested!  Sorry but there is no easy way to tell this. Testing is the only way to know for sure whether or not you have HIV/STIs. Whatever the result, you can get on with your life. 

Despite doing the test, for some that had done it multiple times, they do still go through the same symptoms listed above. Why is that? Are the viruses “attacking” you still? Negative! 

As discussed atop, you might still be dealing with anxiety. You got help to get HIV/STIs tested, but not everyone gets help for anxiousness. 

Illness Anxiety Disorder (IAD)

Anxiety basically just means constant and intense feeling of worry regarding anything. Many with anxiety struggle to control their worries and tend to anticipate some sort of disaster, despite no suggestive evidence.  

IAD means a person becomes preoccupied with the idea that they are or might become ill. This illness anxiety tends to impair social and occupational functioning and at times causes significant distress. Not only one has to deal with constant external judgement, they now have to do with self judgement too? 

According to DSM V, below are the following criteria for IAD:

  • preoccupied with having or acquiring a serious illness.
  • has no or minimal somatic symptoms.
  • highly anxious about health and easily alarmed about personal health issues.
  • repeatedly checks health status or maladaptively avoids doctor appointments and hospitals.
  • preoccupied with illness for ≥ 6 mo, although the specific illness feared may change during that time period.
  • Symptoms are not better accounted for by depression or another mental disorder.

Do note that it is stated above, these symptoms should be present for at least 6 months! If your symptoms are of shorter duration, it will be under another topic ( stay tuned for next article )

What actually causes such illness?

This still remains as a mystery to date! No one actually knows why does one gets such disorder but there are some precipitating factors to it. For example: 

  • Beliefs: you would have searched certain things online, now you believe that you are sure you have STi. you would make yourself believe that you are 100% sure that this is STI! Excessive health-related internet use is NOT a healthy way of living
  • Family/friends: You may be more likely to have health anxiety if you have parents who worried too much about their own health or your health. You might also choose to relate to some of your friends that could have been diagnosed with such condition! 
  • Past experience: You know someone that would have experienced some sort of STIs and it didn’t really turn good for them, and now you worry of your own fate! 


So, when you are too busy looking at our hand phones or laptops continuously, have you ever thought of what’s actually going on around you? Are you even aware of your surroundings?

You may face relationship or family problems because of excessive worrying and this might frustrate them. You might get them to worry for you as well, ending up in a not so healthy environment. 

You might have work-related performance problems that might cause you to take excessive absences. You might get irritated as not everyone understands what you are going through as well! 

With all that going on, inner stress might create problems where you might not be able to function in your daily life. Financial might be the ultimatum as you sometimes tend to get more than second opinions in a month! 

Make me better please!

How do I get out of this one might ask. The goal of treatment is simple, to help you manage anxiety about your health and improve your ability to function in daily life. First step is to get out there and get yourself tested! No easy way out. 

Let’s say you have tested all that you could, and yet you are still restless. What should you do? Psychotherapy will be a good option for you. I’m not a psycho, why do I need a therapy?! 

I’m sorry to burst your bubble but its not what you think it is. Psychotherapy just means that you will be given an opportunity to talk, to pour your heart out. We will be all ears to you. You can spend time with me and let out all you got to say.  

How will talking help me??

You can learn skills to manage illness anxiety disorder and find different ways to manage your worries other than excessive medical testing or avoidance of medical care altogether. This kind of sessions will help you reduce behaviors of frequently checking your body for signs of illness and repeatedly seeking reassurance, hence improving your daily functioning at home, at work, in relationships and in social situations. This will also address other mental health disorders, such as depression. 

So talk and let it gooo.. let it goooo..

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