Are You a "Worried Well" Person?
Many people are fearful that they have HIV, even though they are either at very low risk of infection, or have tested negative for HIV. The common term informally used to describe people in this situation is "worried well." This term generally refers to people who are worried (or convinced) that they have a particular disease, even though they are physically well (in other words, they do not actually have the disease). "Worried well" is not a formal psychiatric term, so you may not find this expression in any psychology textbook. But this term is in common use among many health professionals and among the general population.
Among "worried well" people who are scared of having HIV/AIDS, the actual problem is usually psychological, rather than medical. Psychological problems commonly associated with "worried well" people include:
These psychological problems can only be diagnosed by a qualified mental health counselor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
In regard to HIV/AIDS, how do you know if you are a "worried well" person? Ask yourself these questions:
If you have answered yes to some of these questions, you may want to consider talking to a mental health counselor to identify the true cause of your fears. In addition, if your doctor has prescribed an antidepressant medication for you, it is very important that you go into counseling in addition to taking your medications. Antidepressants and similar drugs are not "happy pills." They must be used along with mental health counseling in order to be helpful.
Counseling cannot be done over the telephone or over the computer. Counseling can only be done in person. Solving these types of problems usually takes multiple counseling sessions (not just one or two).
To find a counselor in your area, look in the yellow pages of your phone book under "Mental Health" or a similar heading. You may also want to contact your local mental health center, or, if you prefer, a religious figure (such as a priest, minister or rabbi) with counseling experience. Often, a general counselor is all you need. However, if your case is very severe, you may be referred to a psychiatrist (a physician who specializes in psychiatric disorders).
In summary, if your fear of having HIV/AIDS is interfering with your day-to-day life on an ongoing basis, then I strongly suggest you consider talking to a mental health counselor regarding your fears. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health!
Do you want more information on HIV/AIDS, STDs or safer sex? Contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Healthline, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-232-4636. Or visit The Body's Safe Sex and Prevention Forum.
Until next time . . . Work hard, play hard, play safe, stay sober!
This article was provided by Rick Sowadsky, M.S.P.H..