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OCD or genuine risk??

Mar 10, 2009

Dr. Bob,

First I have to say how extremely encouraging you are. Your spirit is so bright and reading through your posts often make me smile and LOL. HIV/AIDS is such a serious topic of discussion and creates so much anxiety in people that its relieving to have someone with your personality answering questions. Reading through some of the forums and questions its evident more education (including to myself) and sometimes better decision making would be key.

Just for a little background, for the past year I have been struggling with anxiety, worry, and irrational fears. Believe it or not it all starting with vampires (which for the record I am completely aware DO NOT exist), then being poisoned, now it appears it may be HIV transmission. I do well with my anxiety and the medication I'm prescribed my my PCP generally but when I get a fear/worry I completely OBSESS over it until I have reason to believe I'm "safe" and can move on. The worst part about this that when this happens I become such a "google whore" that I google my brains out trying to find information. Problem with the world wide web is anyone and their mother can post nonsense. Now I'm degressing. Anyway. All of which leads me to my question. Oddly enough, I'm a social worker (so you'd think I'd know this stuff) and I currently work in substance abuse outpatient treatment services. The individuals I work with could be high risk and if nothng else have themselves probably been in high risk situations. It is tradition in the 12 step community and treatment services around the world to end group sessions with the Serenity Prayer during which the group (including the facilitators) hold hands. I've done this for years and never thought much of it until about a week ago. This particular day I received a papercut on my pinky finger about 1.5 hours prior to saying the prayer. It bled slightly but only for a second. I didn't think again about it. At the end of group (1.5 hours later) we were going to say the prayer and I noticed the client sitting next to me had a few cuts on the top of his hand from what he stated was from moving/work. Again not thinking of HIV at the time, we said the serenity prayer as usual. Neither individuals cut was "fresh" or appeared to be bleeding (however, I don't generally inspect peoples hands before saying the prayer). In addition, I have no information suggesting this individual is HIV positive. Am I at risk of HIV in this situation or is it yet another symptom of OCD? I've talked with my doctor, a pharmacist (who happens to be my bff), and other individuals all of whom assure me that the odds of this happening is very minimal at best. I believe however, the OCD in me doubts the truth behind their answers. The serenity prayer is important in the recovery community but my current "fear" has me scared to death to even partake in it. Any help you can offer would be great. Thanks for all you do.

Response from Dr. Frascino


Thank you for your very kind comments. They are warmly appreciated.

As for your question "OCD or genuine risk??" the answer is OCD, definitely OCD. I will say that your progression from being irrationally fearful of vampires to being irrationally fearful of being poisoned to being irrationally fearful of HIV is showing some degree of improvement. You've gone from being freaked out by imaginary creatures to being freaked out by fears of being murdered to being freaked out by a deadly sexually transmitted disease. In other words your wackiness, although still very whacky and unwarranted, is at least moving toward reality and genuine potential risk. HIV, unlike vampires, does exist and HIV, unlike being secretly poisoned, can be contracted by an activity we all participate in whenever we can (sex). Luckily we now know exactly how to enjoy sex and not contract HIV! As for your fears about contracting the virus from holding hands during a 12-step Serenity Prayer while having a paper cut that was 1.5 hours old and not actively bleeding, well, let's just say your risk is the same as a vampire doing you in with an arsenic-laced Root beer float, OK?

Be well. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

$100 testing question
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