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Question about morals and ethics
Aug 14, 2012

Hi, I've been positive for 17 years and living with AIDS now for seven. I'll spare all the details on how bad it was, but I almost died. Now that I've survived I've gone from being a man with a career and a home and a high level of morals and ethics to a person who is basically completely self consumed, worrying about money problems and all the other stuff. I've became somewhat introverted and I've found that my high level of morals and ethics has been replaced by an almost animalistic sense of survival. I see everything as a threat or potential threat to my well being and being an ex Marine I am on a constant higher state of alert...almost like a lion. The problem is it has paralyzed me - putting me in a state similar to a deer in headlights. I look and see that all I have is a card from social security which is my lifeline now. My HIV is under control but I am not. I feel like a madman grasping at anything...a piece of bread, free food in the supermarket devouring it down like an animal in heat...then moving along. There is no rhyme or reason anymore, just survival mode 24/7. What's going on with me?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thanks for writing. Many of the symptoms you describe could be explained by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This can occur when there is an event (or increasingly we are understanding it can be a series of events, not just a single devastating one) that is, basically, beyond the ability of the mind to absorb. Living with HIV takes many tolls in addition to health and you describe several. It can take one's sense of security, career, and confidence, among many others. Symptoms of PTSD can include reliving a traumatic event, social withdrawal, anxiety, and hypervigilence (very sensitive to any possible threat around you). You can read more here.

I would recommend getting an assessment from a mental health professional. Your physician should be able to guide you with this. There isn't a single diagnostic test for PTSD but when properly identified there are effective treatments.

Good luck.

-David



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