STD symptoms or just anxiety?
The ‘worrying’ effects of anxiety
Anxiety has a lot of effects on the body. While these vary from person to person, one thing that we know for sure is that prolonged anxiety has negative effects on your immune system. Lowered immune system function can help give the rise of many already present infections or bacteria, just waiting for the right time to strike. Many STDs including herpes, HPV and HIV lay dormant in your body just waiting for this window of opportunity.Unfortunately this is just the main physical effect that anxiety can have on you.
On the psychological side, any minor discomfort or even just regular sensation your body feels (that slight burning sensation when you pee) can be amplified and you will perceive it as pain when you are stressed. First of all, try to calm yourself down using these grounding techniques for anxiety. It is important to understand that our mind is constantly bombarded by an infinite amount of stimuli and processing all that data at once will constantly overload our brain. Therefore, it’s necessary to weed out the irrelevant ones, or evolutionary, the ones that have less meaning for our survival. Anxiety causes this mechanism to misfire and draw too much attention to a harmless sensation. High anxiety levels would even trick the mind in feeling stuff that aren’t even there. But can anxiety make us feel things similar to STD symptoms?
Anxiety Induced STD symptoms
If you are worried that you have contracted an STD, and on top of that you are familiar with the usual symptoms of said STD, you are far more likely to experience these symptoms while under the effects of anxiety. It’s like when you feel back pain and you cannot take your mind off of it. The more attention you pay to it, the worse it will become, Same goes for STD symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms might not even be there, sometimes normal feelings are just extremely amplified.
It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have a sexual intercourse and you use protection, but 3 days later you notice a slight itch in your genital area. Then you suddenly realize that you had just shaved your pubic hair that day. Your mind rushes and you conclude that you were at a high risk of exposing yourself to an STD. Your anxiety kicks in, and you start paying enormous attention to otherwise normal details. Were the sheets clean? Once the negative thought cycle starts, it’s only a matter of time before you throw yourself to research. After finding more symptoms that you didn’t know about online, you start feeling those as well. Sounds familiar?
The cycle of anxiety is a vicious one, especially when it comes to STD health issues, because it’s much easier to blame yourself when it could have been prevented. If you are experiencing symptoms of an STD the following day after the sexual intercourse, be sure that that is your anxiety taking the best out of you. The fastest acting thing you can get yourself infected with is Gonorrhea and it’s incubation period is 3 days to 1 month. If you have suffered from Scabies before however, they may re-appear after just 2-3 days of infection. All in all, it is important to remember that if symptoms persist always go to a doctor, but don’t be stubborn and surprised if they do not find anything to be wrong with you. We are all human after all, our anxiety is a weapon that has allowed us to survive thus far. Below we have listed some symptoms that anxiety might cause that mimic STD symptoms. Feel free to look through it but keep in mind that, given anxiety and stress levels are high enough, any sensation that you expect to perceive, you will.
Refer to the list below of all the known physical manifestations of anxiety induced STD symptoms:
- Back pain/Abdominal Pain – (Gonorrhea and Chlamydia)
- Rapid Heart Rate – (HIV)
- Headaches – (HIV)
- Cold Sores on mouth/genitals (Oral Herpes/HSV1)
- Pain during intercourse, usually because of dryness (Chlamydia)
- Insomnia (Syphilis)
- Chest Pains (Syphilis and HIV)
- Amplification of otherwise normal bodily sensations (All)
As an added bonus we’d like to list the more general effects that anxiety might have on your body and genital area. All of these symptoms can be mistaken for an STD.
- (men) Testicular Pain – It’s very common for men to feel testicular pain when experiencing high levels of anxiety. Obviously, testicular pain can very easily be mistaken for an STD symptom
- (women) Vaginal Dryness and Pain- Another basic anxiety symptom. When the body is placed under stress, the sensitive balance of vaginal bacteria is disturbed, which will cause vaginal dryness and pain.
- (both)Itching and burning in genital area – Pretty common with anxiety, especially with STD anxiety since people tend to touch their genital area more when they think that something is wrong with it. Again attention is the factor to blame here.
- (both)Cold sores – We decided that it’s important to list cold sores once again, since they are a basic anxiety symptom and a basic STD symptom at the same time. Elevated stress levels cause sores breakouts (oral more than genital), but the real problem is that the first way the body fights an infection is through creating a sore.
- (women) Vaginal infections – Infections caused by a skewed balance of vaginal bacteria because of increased stress and anxiety are very difficult to deal with. The problem is that the initial anxiety causes the infection and then the infection causes additional anxiety. On the other hand, an appearance of a vaginal infection because of factors different than an STD (change of cosmetics and whatnot) will cause anxiety. It is a really vicious circle.
As you can see, the list is quite long, with the last item really fitting any particular STD. But what do we mean by this. Well exactly what we said in the previous paragraph. If you start worrying about a genital itch, and you scratch and touch your pubic skin more and more often, it will get more and more irritated. And you will focus more and more on this feeling and it is going to itch even more. See where I’m going with this? Although there is no say to specifically reduce the anxiety induced STD symptoms, you can reduce anxiety as a whole.
You can always try grounding techniques to help you calm yourself down. Most of these can be done within 2-3 minutes and will leave you generally more mindful and present in the moment. Since breaking the cycle sometimes requires a bit more of a complex approach, try the exercises as well (2nd part of the article linked above). Otherwise, continue reading the more generalized tips below.
First of all, you need to take your mind off of things. This one is a band-aid solution. Change your environment, go for a walk, indulge in your hobby for an hour or two or even meditate. No matter how silly it sounds, it does work. Realize that whether you like it or not, no amount of worrying is going to bring you closer to solving any problems you have.
Second, try and reduce anxiety in the long term. Exercise (it has been known to reduce general anxiety) and diet properly. A nice added bonus from this is that exercise improves your immune system. So the second you start you will see the benefits. If you don’t have hobbies or worry too much about work, try changing something. Humans posses the brain of a child. You cannot relax in the same way you did hundreds of times before. Well, not as much at least. Enjoy a novel experience and see your anxiety shrivel.