I'm having daily panic attacks, I just need an aswer, please!


Repost: Please, doctor, each day that goes by is another day of increased worry. This past summer, I was hospitalized for panic attacks spurred by a similar situation, and now money is short and I can't go back. My doctor wont give me any more unwarranted HIV tests, but I don't know if one is warranted for the below circumstance. I know I have OCD, but the only thing that ever quells these fears is cold, hard medical advice. This site is a godsend, and I'm sorry you have to deal with crazies like me on a daily basis. I'm begging you, I couldn't go to work today because I was having panic attacks. One answer from you can allay my fears. I'm so sorry to bother you, but you are the expert and my GP doesn't know what to tell me, and I trust your expertise implicitly.

Hello Doc,

I recently had an experience that has left me a bit on edge. Now, before asking you this, I tried to do my research about my risk level for the following situation, but Im not sure if what I found really pertains to my question.
So, its winter here in freezing Minnesota, and as such, my elbows are perpetually dry and cracked, so I most likely had teeny tiny, fresh cuts in this dry elbow skin. At work a few days ago, I leaned on the desktop at work (I might add that I work in a place with a few high-risk, promiscuous people, which increases my worry), placing my elbow on an envelope and resting my chin in my hand. When I got up, I noticed a little reddish smear right where my elbow had been, and so I inspected my elbow to see if this red stuff came from my elbow. Sure enough, I had some smeared lines of red stuff over the cracked, teeny tiny cut-laden elbow skin. (After cleaning it off, I checked to see if the tiny cracks in my elbow were bleeding, and they didnt appear to be until I squeezed them, because then they would get red with teeny amounts of blood, but when I pressed a tissue onto them blood spots did not show up on the tissue. Nevertheless, they were pretty red, but they wouldnt have bled enough to have produced the smeared lines in question, so I know it came from an outside source) Now, I have no idea where I got this red stuff from, since no one had touched me at all. Therefore, it must have come from some environmental surface. Now, I dont know for sure if this was blood, but it sure looked like it, although I guess maybe it could have been red pen, since we have a lot of those in the store I work in, and my first assumption was pen, since it seemed pinker than blood would be, but once, again, nothing is for sure.. However, for the sake of argument, and what my OCD-riddled mind believe, lets assume it was blood. If it was blood, it would have been wet when it got on me, because it was smeared, and dry blood doesnt do that. Now, the thing that confuses me is that this site and every other site say you cant get HIV from touching things, and HIV doesnt live in the environment for long at all. I get that. But the blood that was sitting on whatever it was that I rubbed up against, if it was indeed blood, was in the environment, on an object (once again, no one touched me, so the blood that got on my elbow wasnt from an touching someones open cut directly) but apparently it was fresh enough to smear. Would this wet blood that I would have acquired from touching an object in the environment (not from touching someone else) be a risk for HIV if it got on my cracked, teeny tiny 2-3 millimeter-long-cut-laden elbow skin? Im horrendously worried, and very confused by contrasting information found online. Here is the closest scenario I could find, would you assess my risk in the above scenario to be the same as this guys, i.e., no risk at all? Please answer, Im very concerned. Should I get tested?
  blood on table?

Jan 5, 2007 I just want to let you know that you are a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. I have been living with the worry of getting HIV for many years now and I am working hard to rid myself of this "mental disease". Having said that, I do have a question. I hope you can answer me. I was at work one day and I noticed blood on my hands. Now logically, since I had a scab on my right wrist and was touching it with my left hand, the blood on my left hand must have been from my scab on my right hand bleeding. Since this incident, I have picked at the scab enough to cause bleeding. However, my worry always takes over when these things happen and now I am concerned that I may have touched HIV+ blood from a table or some other inanimate object/surface. It is winter, so my skin on my hands is cracked and broken. What are the chances of contracting HIV from the incident I have described above. I hope you can answer my question. Please answer it for me. I will send a donation...just tell me where to send the cheque. Your friend in Canada. Take care and God Bless You.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello, Considering all the circumstances you detail in your post, I'd say your HIV risk would be so remote as to be completely nonexistent. I'm glad you are working to confront your true medical problem irrational HIV fear and anxiety, as this is what really requires attention for your overall good mental and physical health. The address for The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation is: The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation 1000 Fremont Ave., Suite 145 Los Altos, CA 94024 I hope your 2007 is filled with health and happiness and devoid of unwarranted worry! Dr. Bob



Your HIV-acquisition risk is nonexistent. HIV testing is not warranted. You correctly identified your medical problem when you wrote: "I'm horrendously worried . . . ." BINGO! That's your real problem: worry, not HIV!!! The response I gave to the archival question you cite above could be applied directly to you as well.

That you are having daily panic attacks now and required hospitalization for panic attacks spurred on by a similar situation last summer indicates you have ongoing significant psychiatric problems. Your GP should refer you to a psychiatrist for evaluation and ongoing care. "Cold, hard medical advice" may well temporarily calm your anxiety, but it's not solving your problem. Conditions like yours do not often resolve on their own or with reassurance only. In fact they often tend to persist and worsen. Your problem is psychiatric, not virologic! Get the psychiatric help you need, not more HIV tests that you don't! I wish I could help you more, but I can't. I'm not a psychiatrist and your type of problem cannot be treated or cured over the Internet.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob