What To Do After Being Diagnosed With An STD

When it comes to getting STD test results, there are five words no one wants to hear: "Your test came back positive." For many, the process of getting tested for STDs can be a terrifying and stressful experience, one filled with anxiety, dread, and sleepless nights waiting for the results. So it's really not surprising that most of us who get tested for STDs are on edge, sick to our stomachs, and fully expecting the worst by the time our results come back. However, as difficult as it is to think about a positive diagnosis, it's important to be prepared for positive test results so you'll know what to do if you're diagnosed with an STD.

Sites like TheBody, Mayoclinic, and the CDC offer simple, easy-to-understand information on STDs. These sites are helpful and informative, and they focus on educating their readers rather than scaring them.

Admittedly, not all STD diagnoses are equally frightening. Being diagnosed with a chronic STD is obviously going to impact your feelings and your life differently than being diagnosed with a curable STD will. Regardless, it's important to know how to handle either type of STD diagnoses. Read on to learn more about what to do after you've been diagnosed with an STD.

1. Breathe

Mindful breathing helps our bodies calm down on a physiological level by engaging our parasympathetic nervous system. It’s the complementary system to the autonomic system, the one that engages our flight or fight response. When our flight or fight response is engaged, we lose the ability to think rationally through a situation. Mindful breathing can help pull you back from that flight or fight response by calming the mind and body, and it can be used anytime and anywhere.

Take a moment to focus on your breathing. Sit up tall, put your hands in your lap, roll your shoulders back, and push your chest out. Now, at whatever pace feels natural to you, take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Inhale deeply through your diaphragm. You should feel your belly expand if you’re doing it correctly. Try to hold your inhale for four seconds before slowly exhaling. Do this for one to two minutes. Set the timer on your phone so you won’t be focused on when to stop.

2. Try To Stay Positive

Go look at yourself in the mirror right now and tell yourself you’re going to make it through this, and you can figure it out even though it really sucks. Because you know what, it does suck, and acknowledging this is the first step to being OK with your diagnoses.

Being diagnosed with an STD might make you feel ashamed, unlovable, or like you're no longer sexually desirable. For those dealing with a long-term disease, you may find that these feelings can pop up at any given time. However, stepping back from these feelings with a minute or two of mindful breathing and some positive affirmations can help you keep negative thoughts under control.

3. Educate Yourself

Now is the time to start educating yourself about your disease. For someone diagnosed with an easily curable disease, like Chlamydia, this process might be a short one. You don’t need to learn how to navigate the dating scene with Chlamydia. You simply get treated, tell any partners that may have been infected, and move on with your life.

Conversely, if you've been diagnosed with a long-term disease such as HPV, HIV, Herpes, or Hepatitis C, you’re going to have to start learning about how to prevent your disease from running your life.

It's important to understand how you disease is transmitted so you can learn how to protect your partners. This is also helpful because if a current or potential partner reacts emotionally to finding out about your status, you can calmly respond with facts. Understanding how the risk of transmission varies by sex act and gender is another critical piece of the puzzle. It gives you and your partner a framework in which to discuss what each of you is comfortable with.

4. Seek Support

Finding others who are on the same journey as you can be helpful. A site like PositiveSingles is a great place to start. PositiveSingles is free to join, and it allows members to start a blog or join different forums where they can chat with other members about living with an STD.

5. Don't Avoid Your Feelings

Have compassion for yourself during this process. Honor your feelings. If you feel angry, allow yourself to be angry. If you need to cry, let it out. If you need some alone time to process everything, then take as much time as you need — and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do what’s right for you in the moment.

The Bottom Line

There is no simple solution for living with an STD. My advice to you is to have courage. Take the time to educate yourself about your disease so you can better understand how to live with it. Honor your feelings as they come, and open yourself up to the possibility of being OK while living with an STD. Because a good life and a positive STD result don't have to be mutually exclusive.

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