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Obsessive worry about HIV

Aug 14, 2011

Dear Doc,

In Feb 2009 I went for a friend's bachelor party and fingered and kissed a dancer. From that day onwards anxiety set in (maybe due to guilt -I am married). I was scared that I got HIV from this encounter so in May 2009 I got tested: the results were negative and I was relieved. In March 2010, I began to wonder, for no reason, if the results of my previous HIV test were not trust worthy. What if the path lab goofed up my results??

I got myself tested again in April 2010: negative-relieved again! But I thought maybe the needle was re-used for the blood test and might have infected me. So again in June 2010 I got tested-negative! I repeated tests in January 2011, May 2011, and now in August 2011. The last phlebotomist even showed me the needle pack and opened and then discarded the needle in front of me.

Why do I keep bringing and running the scenes in my head after every blood draw and then doubt whether the phlebotomist did in fact infect me? Sometimes it's no longer about HIV but just repeating the scene like a broken record that I just can't stop!!!

I am going crazy. I have beautiful wife and two loving kids and I really want to enjoy my life!!!

-Worried in Mumbai

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thanks for writing. When HIV tests offer no reassurance despite repeated negative results, and when the concern spreads to worry about the testing procedure itself, it indicates the likelihood of an anxiety disorder. One such disorder that matches your symptoms is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce worry and apprehension, repeated behaviors (testing) aimed at reducing the anxiety, or a combination of both, none of which are very effective at reducing the anxiety. I would recommend finding professional help to address OCD. There are effective treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy. This both reduces the shame and guilt that result from the worry and provides tools that help you combat the irrational thoughts. There are also medications that are very effective at reducing these symptoms, most commonly certain antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

There is a solution and it's not more HIV tests! Good luck.


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