HIV Anxiety Support User Group
How to cope with crippling anxiety after HIV symptoms emerge?
About This Group:

This support group is for those who are suffering from stress or anxiety associated with uncertain HIV status. HIV anxiety is extremely isolating for those who are going through it, as it is often very difficult to discuss with friends and family members. This group is provided for sufferers of HIV anxiety to discuss their fears in a supportive environment. Those with anxiety over non-HIV STDs are also welcome. For personal advice concerning HIV risk, testing, and prevention, please post in the HIV Prevention Community.

Founded by joggen on October 4, 2009
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How to cope with crippling anxiety after HIV symptoms emerge?

Hi. I have posted on other sections on the board and I appreciate some of the replies I have received telling not to worry but I have never experienced anxiety like this before and am really struggling to cope.

I have suffered from anxiety before but this is on another level. I frequently breakdown in tears in the bathroom in private. I am physically shaking, I cannot think straight or perform basic household or work tasks, I have never been as scared in all my life. I can look at my kids without feeling that I am about to lose them and I can't look at my wife for fear that I have destroyed our family and ruined her life. We have a new baby girl and I cannot change her or handle her without wanting to cry. When I am holding her alone I find myself telling her that I did something stupid and that I'm sorry and that I may not be part of her life when her mother finds out.

I have absolutely convinced myself I have HIV despite what people are telling me on Med Help.

My possible exposure happened 4 weeks ago. I was in a bachelor party in Germany and ended up very drunk. With two others I found myself in a brothel although we did not know that's what it was when we went in, we thought it was a strip joint.

I stupidly engaged in a threesome with two prostitutes. I wore a condom throughout as far as I can remember but I was very drunk and only remember flashes of it. My anxiety makes me question if it ever came off.

What I absolutely remember is that I performed intense oral sex on one of the girls including rimming her and really licking and sucking her vagina. I struggle to explain my behaviour I really do. Even now I can't believe it happened. I am still deeply ashamed.

When I awoke the next day I was beside myself. It was my first time with prostitutes and the first time I have ever cheated on my wife. I was a wreck. Over time the guilt was joined by anxiety about catching and STD.

As the weeks past I slowly managed to out things behind me.i was thinking about it less and less and reading posts in here had reassured me.

However on Sunday (4 weeks and one day since possible exposure) I came down with a burning sore throat. It was a nasty one and was very.panful I also just didn't feel great. By Monday things got worse, I had a fever, was shaking, shivering and sweating, still had the sore throat but it was joined with a little congestion and aching joints. I also developed a small rash on my back.

With this all my fears and anxieties came crashing back and hit me like a sledge hammer. I was convinced that this was the early symptoms on HIV or another STD. I wept in bed as the house lay empty. I am very rarely ill. I couldn't tell you the last time I had symptoms like these. I tried convincing myself that it was maybe a bad cold but I couldn't listen to myself as deep down my anxiety wouldn't let me believe it

Today I feel a little better but still awoke with a fever and a dry cough that is relentless. Rash is still there but my throat doesn't feel as painful. I still have that feeling of being cold and shivering and also sweating at the same time. I also have diahorrea.

Within 5 seconds of opening my eyes this morning it all came flooding back. My anxiety hit me. Fear of having HIV, fear of having to tell my wife. Fear of destroying her life. Fear of destroying my kids life, fear of losing my wife and kids forever and the shame I will feel in our social, circles for my actions.

Again I had to change the baby and again I found it hard to interact with her or even look at her without feeling a crushing anxiety, shame of betrayal and fear that I won't be able to change her nappy that many more times in the future.

I know people will read this and roll their eyes and others may feel I deserve it but I need help. I don't know what to do. I have made an appointment for tests but they could not take me for another 2 weeks! I can't cope that long. I feel trapped and crushed with fear.

I took to Med Help yesterday and the poster 'teak' told me I had no risk of HIV. However that conflicts with the advice given on every other websites including government websites that state there is actually a (lower) risk of contracting HIV from unprotected oral. I keep trying to think if I had any cuts etc on my mouth but honestly I don't know, I can't remember. I have also read that actually there is not much research on oral sex because often people engage in other risky behaviour and that's what the contraction of HIV Is attributed to. As for the protected sex, I know that's safe as long as the condom was worn throughout and although my mind is playing tricks on me that maybe it came off from what I remember I do think it stayed on throughout. I didn't see it when I ejaculated however, the girl must have taken it off as next thing I knew I was outside.

I was coping with my anxiety fine until these symptoms surfaced now I have lost control. I need to wait 2 more weeks until I can get tested to try and find out. How can I try and cope better in the meantime for the sake of my family? They can sense something is wrong and I try and tell them I'm fine but I'm not, I'm really not and need advice as to how to better deal with this for another 2/3 weeks.

Thank you for reading any I apologise if its a bit long winded or I sounded stupid at any point. Also sorry for any typos this was very quickly written on a ipad as I had another emotional breakdown away from my family in the bathroom.
If your anxiety is that bad you really need to be seeking personal, professional mental health care instead of seeking help through the internet. The combination of your guilt and anxiety is not letting you accept the reassurance that you have been given on HIV forums so there is really not much that we can say on this forum other than to seek a therapist AND a psychiatrist for your anxiety ASAP. That level of anxiety is not healthy and needs to be properly psychologically and medically addressed.
Thank you for replying.

I know that this level of anxiety can't be good for me, I was just hoping to somehow cope with it until I reach a point I can be reliably tested and them try and put this behind me.

The problem has been the appearance of the above symptoms... It has really made the situation a whole lot worse and to be fair I think it is concerning that these symptoms have arisen 4 weeks later.

However I do take your point and I will really try and calm down by reminding myself over and over the advice on here and that what I have may just be a cold at an unfortunate time.

Thanks for replying again.
The symptoms that you describe are produced by very common, highly contagious viruses. That's why HIV is not diagnosed by symptoms.
For what it's worth my friend myself, and several other men I know went through precisely (baby girl and all) what you went through and all turned out negative > 6mos after the event, and I"m actually going through it right now too... You are not alone.

Think about the numbers, odds a white woman contracts HIV in her lifetime < 1/512, odds of transmission assuming no protection from a single act ~1/500, and odds you false-negative EIA at 6 weeks ~ .10 (duo would be much less)

Running numbers like this you can see it's 1 in a million that the worst has happened so long as you make it out to 8 weeks.

There are many, MANY other communicable viruses which are more common and more easily transmitted than HIV, and it's totally possible you acquired one of those from your adventure.

Don't beat yourself up over it. Just focus on doing right in the present. If you test negative at 6 weeks, it's highly unlikely you are infected. I would strongly recommend seeking a p24/antibody duo test. It can be very comforting.

Take your own advice, including this:

"Don't beat yourself up over it."
Thank you for your replies.

I really am trying to keep me anxiety under control but its so hard. I just have so much to lose.

One week since symptoms arrived I still have them. I still have a fever, sore throat and a cough. I keep saying to myself it could just be a common illness but I just can't get away from the fear that these are early symptoms of HIV 5 weeks now since possible exposure.

What a horrendous experience.
You never had an exposure.
Look through the forums. You'll find about 300 stories exactly like yours.
On occasion these men eventually post positive HSV or Gonorrhea diagnoses. I have read so many. Not a single one got HIV. It's too bad medhelp doesn't categorize by exposure type. It would be really telling. You would be shocked.

You are not going to get HIV. I know exactly how you feel. There are plenty of other random virii which can cause your symptoms. The worst case scenario is not the most likely possibility, but it seems like it is to you.

That's how you know you aren't thinking clearly.

Thank you for your reassuring comments.

I'm really trying to accept what you are saying.

Going for testing next week so hopefully I get good news and can put this behind me  
Part of the reason I say these things to you, is because I feel exactly the same way...
I hope we're both okay.
I couldn't wait any longer so paid for a STD screening and attended yesterday.

It's one if these 4th generation tests so hopefully accurate.

Now I need to wait a few working days for the results, probably by end of next week.

Praying for a positive outcome so I can go on with my life and bit lose my wife and kids.

Good luck to you as well gerdisthewerd.
I'm with never had a risk. The brothel gals in Germany are notoriously "clean." Very similar working situation as Amsterdam. They use condoms to protect themselves from YOU, not the other way around! They want your money, not your diseases. So, considering how drunk you were, the SW would NOT have left the responsibility of protection up to you! But they NEVER leave it up to the man anyway. They may be nothing but ****** in your mind, doesn't make them stupid.

You could/should have tested for other STDs within days of your encounter. At least those worries would have been off your mind. HAVE you been tested for them NOW?

Your anxiety, which is exacerbated by your extreme guilt, is way off the charts. Have you seen your doctor about all your symptoms? I'd be willing to bet joggens rent that your anxiety ridden mind is causing the vast majority of those symptoms. How many times have you Googled HIV symptoms? Read a lot about ARS have you? Do you know how incredibly powerful our minds are? Do you know our minds can convince us of just about anything? Our minds can even create actual physical symptoms when the anxiety takes over. Which it has in your case.

During WW II when they ran out of morphine, the only pain killer they had in those days at an Army field hospital, the doctors gave the injured men sugar pills and convinced them they were a new kind of pain killer, 10X stronger than morphine.............the doctors amputated limbs, put mens guts back inside their bodies, they did procedures that without pain meds would have killed these men, but not a single one of them died or complained of ANY pain. It's called the Placebo Affect and it's just one example of how powerful our minds are.

YOUR mind is doing pretty much the same thing but in an extremely negative way. It can't actually cause us to get whatever disease it is we are so fearful of, but it definitely can create the symptoms.

See your doctor for STD tests IF you haven't yet. (Excluding HIV) Tell him/her exactly what is going on............this is the one place you have to be honest. Ask for something to calm you down, which you probably won't have to even ask for. But if they don't offer, then ask. Ativan, Xanax...........both excellent for SHORT TERM use. Ask for a referral to a psychologist and make an appointment for ASAP.

I have no doubt your wife is wondering what the hell is going on with you if your post is an accurate indication of your mindset right now. Which is why I'm saying see your doc ASAP, get what answers you can right now, get some help via medication to calm down and get in front of a p-doc. These will help carry you until the 12 week conclusive test can be done.

I NEVER EVER advocate lying to anyone, especially a spouse, but right now you need to just keep your mouth shut! And maybe you'll have to keep your mouth shut about your cheating for the rest of your life if you want to keep your family together. I personally don't care about the guilt you may have to live with. You bought THAT along with the side of German sex. Spilling your guts now, in your current frame of mind would be a disaster, and just about every psych doc in the world will tell you that "confessing" is actually a very selfish way out of the guilt and will only cause your wife pain and possibly end your marriage.

What, when, how or IF you deal with this with your wife should be something you and your therapist discuss. We aren't into marriage counseling.

I know it's hard to wait for test results. Its some of the worst mental  agony we can deal with in this life. But sometimes we all have to put on our big girl and boy underpants and just do it.
I've told you what you CAN do while you're waiting..............whether or not you actually do any of them is up to you.

I'm know that I am harsh. I'm not going to apologize for it. I didn't get you in the position you're in now, YOU DID. I know you're scared, I've been there.
I will make you a promise, OK?
I promise you do NOT have HIV.
Yes, I'm a B**** but you can take THAT to the bank.

3rd line from bottom should have read

"Yes, I'm a B**** but you can take THAT PROMISE to the bank"

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