Worry and anxiety
We who work here at Noaks Ark Östergötland often talk to people who call because they need to talk to someone about their fear of HIV. Whether there is a risk or not, these people feel a very strong worry or anxiety about having been infected. For some, the anxiety is so disabling that they are unable to manage their work or studies. Some people call in sick and some say that they have had suicidal thoughts. All time is spent worrying, examining your body and paying attention to symptoms, and searching for information online. This behavior inevitably leads to further escalation of anxiety.
How does anxiety work?
When we experience anxiety about something, such as a strong fear of having contracted a serious illness, our brain goes into high gear, and we become alert to anything that confirms that the fear is justified. We use selective thinking, become self-focused, procrastinate, and make thinking errors. The event that caused the anxiety causes us to have extremely strong feelings of fear, anger, sadness, shame, and guilt. If we also regret and blame ourselves for what happened, many of us can also have an unconscious punishment mindset. If it is about having been unfaithful, we become terrified of infecting our partner or our children. It is common that we also start to see symptoms in the partner or the children, symptoms that our brain turns into clear signs of HIV. We become convinced that the thing we fear most has happened and the part of our brain that can think rationally and logically is completely knocked out.
If the anxiety and thoughts about HIV become unbearable, we believe that you should be kind to yourself and go and get tested. This is regardless of whether there is a time of risk or not.