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how can i help those like me?
Jun 22, 1999

I see so many people with this bizarre AIDS anxiety that it make me wonder, why isn't there anyone out there who specializes in it? I myself have suffered from it in the past. It has brought me close to suicide, driven my friends a way, made my coworkers crazy, and made people with AIDS absolutely furious at me. 'Look at him, an 18 year old kid going nuts over something that is so low risk.' I have, recently, found a new outlet though. I have been contributing to microsoft's AIDS bbs. I have found all that information that once made me paranoid and self destructive can actually help people who themselves suffer from them same things that I do. Feigned symptoms brought on by mental stress, 'dizziness' and diarrhea, which are results of peoples' anxiety and thereby causing them not to eating well. Fevers and night sweats caused either by a legitimate cold or just a weakened immune system due to stress. Sadly, I find that most people who suffer from this are intelligent and generally conservative people. I have both of those 'problems.' I just wish that there was something that I could do to help these people, who are truly sick, but not with HIV. These people can not be neglected as they seem to live a worse existence then people who have actually contracted the diseases. Their obsession drives them to compulsion, which ultimately drives them to more obsession. I have been going to college for a while now and have taken a few psychology classes, (i graduated from high school early) and I have found that there isn't a course or field that deals with somatoform(sp?) or hypochondriacl(sp?) illnesses, at least not at Indiana University (which one would think they should have considering their history of psychological research.) So my question for you, I guess, is there an area of learning that I can go into that will bring me into this field of study, or must I make one?

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The kinds of symptoms presented by individuals with severe AIDS phobias are very complicated to treat and usually are manifestations of deep emotional or characterological personality structures. Successfully treating these peole is not as easy as you suggest in your question. A graduate degree in psychology, psychiatry or social work, with the corresponding training on diagnosis, evaluation, treatment and well supervised clinical internships is the only way to prepare yourself to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be able to effectively work with these types of individuals. It is not productive to just go after the symptom, no matter what so called managed care (which I call either mismanaged or mangled care)is currently trying to get mental health professionals to do.

You are very correct that these people are suffering greatly and do need and deserve specialized mental health treatment to help them work through the variety of issues that has brought them to where they are today. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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