Facts about STDs and mental health disorders
Date: December 30th, 2021
Mental health covers a broad range of conditions affecting how we act, think, and feel. Several conditions linked to mental health are related to sexual health. Sometimes our mental status affects how we make decisions about sex.
For instance, having sex when stressed, drunk or lonely. Also, sexual health concerns and management can make us feel anxious, worried, sad, or even hopeless. In case you are experiencing these feelings, know that they exist and there is help.
Read through this article to learn about STDs and mental health disorders and what you should do when you get any of them.
Conditions that link mental health and sexual health.
The following section focuses on the common mental health conditions that can arise from our thoughts and perception of sexual health.
Worry refers to the collection of thoughts, actions, emotions, and negative images that happen uncontrollably and repetitively. It results from a proactive cognitive risk response made to solve or avoid potential threats and consequences.
In simple terms, worry is the uneasiness you experience when you repetitively think about something. It is natural to get worried at different points in life, and it is equally normal to get worried about STIs.
As one of the conditions linking mental health and sexual health, you can get concerned about your sexual choices and the chances of contracting or passing STDs. Or you may feel anxious about having sexually transmitted infections and how it will disorient your life.
Also, you may be worried about the shame and stigma around STDs, or when you move out of a comfort zone like having sex with a different person other than your partner, a sex worker, or after trying a new sexual activity.
Another typical instance that is difficult for most people is waiting for STDs test results. At this point, most individuals get serious worries and can sneak away before getting the results.
However, different medical reviews about STDs and mental health disorders, worry can be both useful and problematic. Usually, it is a sign that you don’t feel good about what has happened. It provides you a chance to identify the cause of worry, what you can do to address it, and if you are ready to execute the decisions.
Below are things you should consider when you are worried about sexual health.
- Know your comfort levels with different sexual activities. Everyone is entitled to safe and comfortable sexual activities. Besides the types of intercourse you settle on, this covers up to the risk tolerance levels. However, with time, open communication, and reflection with your partner, you will agree on what is best for you.
- Seek good information. There are several shaming and negative information around STDs and sex, which can trigger worry and confusion. To keep safe from these toxic messages, it is advised that you only look for information from professional sources. Reach out to sexual health experts, or join support groups that are focused on sexuality.
- Manage daily worries. While it is natural to worry about various things from time to time, it is best to control daily worries as much as possible. This is because worrying about one thing can lead to multiple worries, which can cause further problems. Therefore, if you experience uncontrollable or daily worries, you might have some underlying factors you need to consider.
- Consider visiting a counselor. Sometimes it might help to talk to someone with experience dealing with STDs and mental health disorders. If these feelings hinder you from performing your daily tasks, it may be a sign to seek professional assistance.2.
When worry becomes hard to control and starts to affect how you go about your daily life, it is described as anxiety. This condition can be described as a downward spiral; the more you think about it, the more anxious you become.
An example of anxiety due to STDs is when you have received a negative STI or HIV test result, but you are still feeling uneasy. You may do several tests or find yourself searching for more information about the infection. However, anxiety makes the brain overthink, and most of the time, there is a limited amount of data that can help.
This condition can manifest in the following ways;
- Thought symptoms; uncertainty, confusion, intrusive thoughts, poor memory, and poor concentration.
- Physical signs; headache, chills, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and fatigue.
- Emotions; guilty, panic, fear, anxiety, depression, irritability, and agitation.
- Behavior; sleeping problems, withdrawal, changes in social activities, loss of appetite, problem working, and drugs and alcohol use.
Do the following if you have anxiety.
- Stop searching for information on the internet; looking for answers from the internet will continually worsen your anxiety. Internet, though it is beneficial, there are several misleading and outdated information, rendering it unreliable.
- Try breath counting and deep breathing techniques and focus your attention on your breathing pattern. Breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth. While breathing in, hold the air deep into your stomach. Relax and start counting
- Declarations; affirmations or declarations are simple phrases that you focus your mind on to help you remain calm and minimize negative feelings. Examples include, "I understand I am worried, but I need to be calm," or "I feel anxious, but the doctor said all will be well." For maximum results, you can combine this technique with a breathing pattern.
- Thought stopping; is a technique that is used as a buffer zone for negative thoughts. Anytime you’ve realized you are experiencing bad thoughts, say STOP loudly or silently to your mind. Breathe in deeply and imagine yourself collecting the negative thoughts out of your brain and throwing them away. Say to yourself, "go away," "blow it away," while visualizing yourself gathering them.
- Create a worry plan; create a list of these methods, a card that you can store in your wallet, or a nearby place that is reachable when you need to remind yourself. This plan helps you remind yourself what you should do whenever you got anxiety attacks.
Also known as major depressive disorder, depression is a common and severe medical condition that affects how we think, feel, and act. This condition may be similar to anxiety and worry but shows serious symptoms than the two.
STDs diagnosis can be emotionally traumatic and can lead to the development of depression. Also, with depression, it means that people with STD symptoms may find it hard to open up and reach out for timely diagnosis, treatment, and management of the condition.
Depressed individuals may not be conscious enough to take precautions to protect their or other people’s sexual health.
Symptoms of depressions can vary from mild to severe, and they include the following;
- Sad feelings of depressed moods.
- Changes in appetite which can lead to weight loss or gain depending on your appetite.
- Lack of pleasure and interest in everyday social activities.
- Increased fatigue and loss of energy.
- Poor sleep hygiene.
- Hopelessness, guilt, or worthless feelings.
- Increased unconscious purposeless physical activities like pacing, inability to stay still, slowed speech or movement. All these have to be severe that others can observe them.
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making rational decisions.
- Suicidal thoughts and threats.
While you may confuse these symptoms with the normal daily worries, if they persist, become severe, and start affecting your everyday lifestyle, you need to consult a professional sexual health expert.
People with STIs undergo difficulty with trust and stability in their long-term relationships and an unstable mental status. If these factors are on the extreme, they can lead to the imagination of suicidal thoughts.
Besides, stigmatization and shame around sexually transmitted infections cause severe depressive symptoms that can trigger suicidal thoughts. Other factors like loneliness, low self-esteem, defeat, entrapment, or unsatisfied interpersonal needs are linked to the thoughts of suicides.
One of the ways we can prevent these tragic thoughts among STI patients is through concerted efforts to improve their lives socially and health-wise. Also, there is a need to create awareness among people on overcoming stigma and discrimination in society.
In case you are having thoughts of suicide because of sexually transmitted infections, it is recommended that you seek immediate help beginning with family and close relatives. As said before, a problem shared is a problem half solved.
If you don't find help, it would be appropriate to seek professional mental or sexual counselors' help.
STDs and mental health disorders are related in many ways. Disorders such as worries, anxiety, depressions, and suicidal thoughts are common to sexually transmitted infections.
Different factors can trigger these mental disorders, ranging from the fear of getting or passing the infection, anxiety when waiting for STDs test results to the uncertainty of life after learning that you have an infection.
While they can be fatal health complications if not managed promptly, these conditions can be managed easily, personally, or with the help of a certified professional.