How To Cope with Positive STI Diagnosis

Each day, life can throw curveballs our way. We’ve lived through pandemics, floods, and fires…just to name a few. All of us have had to cope with challenges that we may never face again, our anxiety levels are currently at an all-time high.

With this in mind, in this blog we want to discuss the emotional distress and strain a positive Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) result can add to this emotional load. A positive test can bring with it a multitude of feelings including fear, shame, guilt, anger and isolation.

When we refer to STI, we are focusing on conditions such as:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Genital warts
  • Genital herpes
  • Pubic lice
  • Scabies
  • Syphilis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

In this blog, we want to tackle these thoughts and feelings, and offer strategies to re-shape our thoughts and how to take action after initial diagnosis.

The Initial Diagnosis

No matter how you feel emotionally it’s vital you speak to a medical practitioner and avoid self-diagnosing any condition. There is no shame in speaking to a professional who will work with you to improve your health and well-being. Doctors and nurses work with many patients each day and are solely focused on identifying and fixing the issue at hand.

It’s important to remember that 90% of all STIs can be remedied. All STIs can be treated with medication so that is why we urge you to find your bravery and talk to your medical practitioner.

Taking Action

While you still may be coping with the emotional stress, the next stage should consist of a number of actions. This can seem overwhelming, so take the time to analyse and process what steps need to be taken. With any situation that adds a number of emotions and feelings, use this time to get your actions and thoughts down on paper and not let it all bundle up into one chaotic ball.

Some suggested actions include:

  • Communicating with your sexual partners on your diagnosis to make sure they are tested and treated where necessary. This is also provides a chance for your sexual partners to talk to any other impacted parties.
  • Researching the STI and how you can support your own health through a healthy diet, vitamin supplements and lifestyle.
  • Be kind to your body – make sure you get enough sleep, enjoy a couple of days of work, do anything that helps reduce stress.

Understand and Accept Your Feelings

The words “positive STI” might bring on feelings of shame or betrayal, a million questions will run through our heads.

“Where did I get it from?”
“Was my partner unfaithful?”
“I feel ashamed that this has happened to me.”

It’s important to know that 1 in 6 Australians have been diagnosed with an STI in their lifetime, and you are not alone! STIs were around a long time before you and will be part of our lives well into the future.

Despite this statistic, many of us will deal with a number of different feelings. One piece of research even suggests that women can be extremely negatively impacted emotionally. “Women with STDs experience frustration, anxiety, anger, fear of rejection, isolation, guilt, embarrassment, shame and feelings of physical filth or contamination.

These negative psychological effects are potentially more important than the medical effects of the disease.”

There is a key takeaway from that finding…”the psychological effects are potentially more important than the medical effects.”

Accepting our feelings and working through them is vital, talk to your friends, find a support group or even ask your medical professional for advice is a great place to start. Shutting yourself off from those you love through guilt and shame will hold you back from emotional recovery.

How Haven Can Help

If you feel like you cannot cope with any of the continuing emotions circling around a positive STI test, it’s important to talk to one of the team at Haven Psychology. 

Our team are experts in sexual function and health, sexual traumas and difficulties. We are trained to help you manage and develop strategies and self-compassion to relieve the distress and anxieties of a diagnosis.

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