How To Deal With Anxiety Over Getting Tested For STIs, According To Experts

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There are lots of reasons why you might be nervous to get tested for STIs, but especially so if you suspect you have one. It can be a tense time as you worry about your health, and wonder about the future. But there are plenty of things you can do to move past this anxiety, and get the testing and treatment you need.

While it's incredibly common to feel worried, the last thing you want is for nerves to get the better of you. "You should learn to manage STI testing anxiety because it can potentially scare you from getting tested," Dr. Ross Kopelman, a resident at St. John’s Hospital in Long Island, tells Bustle. If you feel too nervous to go, you'll be doing your health — both physical and mental — a disservice.

"Getting screened for STIs will either bring you a great sense of relief because you don’t have any, or it can help you get the treatment you need if you do end up testing positive," Kopelman says. "Treatment will prevent the infection from getting worse and keep you from infecting other people." So, with that motivation in mind, read on for a few ways to feel less anxious about STI testing, according to experts.

1. Find Someone To Talk To

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If you're feeling apprehensive, "talking to someone you trust about your fears is a great way to decrease the amount of stress or anxiety your thoughts are causing you," Jenna Vogler MA, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor and sexual health expert, tells Bustle. So if you think it would help to reach out to someone and share your worries and concerns, go ahead and do so.

You might call a friend before your doctor's appointment, or see if they'd be able to come with you. There's no shame in asking for support, especially if it'll make it easier to move past your fears, and get tested.

2. Prepare For Your Appointment

If anxiety is making you feel out of control, consider taking a few steps to get organized, as a way of managing your stress levels.

"This could include setting reminders for [your] appointment, writing down questions or thoughts about the appointment or STI testing, or arranging for a supportive person in your life to attend the appointment with you," Vogler says.

Think about what sounds most helpful, then go about doing it so you can show up for your testing feeling more confident and self-assured.

3. Don't Back Out At The Last Second

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While you may be tempted to cancel your appointment, backing out will only strengthen your anxiety, and make it even more difficult to go to next time. So once you choose a day, treat it as you would any other important addition to your calendar, and stick with it.

Ongoing anxiety can even start to have a negative impact on your overall well-being, Vogler says. So if the stress is intense, it's not something you'll want to marinate in for weeks on end. Instead, do your mind (and your body) a favor, and keep your appointment.

4. Ask Questions

"Do not be embarrassed to ask your doctor specific and detailed questions," Kopelman says. "They are not there to judge you but to help you." And in fact, the more information you can give them, the better they'll be able to help — even if it feels awkward to say it out loud.

You can rest assured the doctor or nurse has literally seen and heard it all before, so nothing you say will shock them. By keeping this in mind, it may help take some pressure off the appointment, and make it easier to talk about your symptoms.

5. Ask About Your Treatment Options

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While it may be tough to remember when you're in panic mode, "it’s important to know that STIs are extremely common and there are effective treatments for virtually all of them," Amesh A. Adalja, MD, FIDSA, FACP, FACEP, a board-certified infectious disease physician, tells Bustle. Bearing this in mind may be just what you need to get brave, march into a clinic, and get tested.

If you do receive positive test results, start a conversation with your doctor about all the treatment options available. The more knowledge you can gather about the infection, and all the ways to treat it, the less anxious and out of control you'll feel.

6. Meet With A Therapist

If you're anxious to the point you're considering putting off testing, ignoring symptoms, or otherwise sweeping the issue under the rug, it may be time to call in the help of a professional.

"Seeing a therapist is a great way to manage anxiety related to any difficulty you are facing," Vogler says. "A therapist can help you identify specific fears and reduce the stress related to the fear."

STI testing can be stressful enough on its own, but if you're already dealing with anxiety, it can feel nearly impossible to go and get it done. With therapy, though, you can find a way to manage your concerns.

7. Try An At-Home Testing Kit

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If you'd prefer to avoid awkward conversations with your doctor, or the stress of sitting in a waiting room, consider ordering an at-home STI testing kit. "Home collection of samples can avoid anxiety about asking a provider for STI testing and the results are delivered discreetly to you," Adalja says. This will help you skip some of the initial anxiety-inducing moments in a clinic. But you'll still want to follow up with your doctor, especially if you get positive results.

The goal is to get the testing done, whether you think you have an STI, or are simply going in for a checkup. It's common — and completely understandable — to feel anxious. But do yourself (and your partners) a favor, and find the a way to push through the nerves.