Can't live like this, consumed with worry...
May 5, 2012
Hello Mr. Fawcett,
I hope you are doing well, I currently find myself in a bad situation. Over the past couple months I have had a severe fear of contracting HIV. I cannot touch things, use public facilities, or even eat out in public places for fear of coming into contact with someone's blood or bodily fluids. I carry those sanitary wet-napkins (kind of like baby wipes) in my wallet in case I touch something wet. I excessively get tested and read information for hours a night. It's affecting my (new) job, sleep, and my relationship with my girlfriend of 6 years. In January, I decided to get some therapy, I have been seeing a therapist and he told me I have OCD and a by-product of that is some pretty intense anxiety. I'm pretty sure I walked right up to the line of having a mini heart-attack a few days ago while driving as I was thinking about how if I get HIV, I'll only have 30 more years to live.
Could you please give me some advice? I get tested, and then a week later something else happens and then I get tested again 8 weeks later. Even sometimes on the Safe Sex and Prevention forum, I read that contact with blood or other fluids can pose a risk and that in itself throws me into a state of panic.
Recently, I went to the Red Cross to donate blood and they asked if I had any contact with blood, I started stammering about my nonsense but they still let me donate. Have you seen this before? Do you know of any route I can possibly research/pursue on my own to get my life back on track? I anxiously await your response!
Response from Dr. Fawcett
Thanks for writing. Your therapist sounds exactly correct in that the symptoms you describe are those of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is classified as an anxiety disorder. There are two avenues of effective therapy, and a combination often works best. Medications such as SSRIs (a class of drugs often used for depression and OCD) work well. Keep in mind they take 6-8 weeks to build up blood levels adequate for relief. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a kind of psychotherapy, is also effective at reducing these symptoms.
Remember you can't reason with your thoughts and fears - they are irrational. Speak with your therapist about a referral for a medication evaluation and about including CBT in your therapy.
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