Dealing with the Initial Shock of an HIV Diagnosis

In my , I have had the opportunity of working with many gay men who are dealing with a diagnosis of HIV. Some have had this diagnosis for many years, while others are dealing with newly being diagnosed. The initial shock from hearing this news can lead to anger, denial, depression, guilt, and anxiety. Though this experience can be extremely difficult, with the right approach and self-acceptance, you can make it through this and live the content life that you want to live.

is a common first response for many who deal with such a diagnosis. This can have serious consequences because your denial can lead you to deny yourself of important HIV treatments. Although, this reaction is understandable when dealing with hearing this news, the potential consequences are too dangerous. It is true that HIV has been highly stigmatized, and has social consequences as a result. However, it is most likely that your friends will just want to be there for you. Although it can be initially difficult, it can be extremely rewarding in the long-run to let them help.

Regret, anger, depression, and anxiety are also very common to experience at this time as well. Thoughts such as “if only I would’ve been more careful” are often experienced. It is also possible to blame yourself or others for the news, and worry about what this means for your future. To combat these emotions, using relaxation techniques can help to bring your mind into the safety of the present. The past doesn’t hold anything but regret, and the future can lead to increased anxiety. Recognizing that the current level of safety is no different in the present than it was the day before can help to deal with self-deprecation and anxiety.

It can be a challenge to think rationally through grief. Giving yourself time is important. Rushing the process of feeling better can lead to discouragement and frustration. Understand that it is normal to have some negative feelings. For many, these pass on their own with time.

If the feelings don’t pass as quickly as you would like, you can also reach out to others who have been diagnosed to hear how about their personal experiences. You can tell them about the difficulties that you are experiencing since having been diagnosed, and ask if they had or have a similar experience. You will see how you are similar and how you differ. Regardless of the other perspectives, you’ll know that you are not alone in this process.

If you continue to struggle with this news. Finding a therapist or counselor who has experience helping people through a diagnosis may be beneficial. The experience of getting the news of a stigmatized diagnosis can be traumatic. It can also be difficult to control grief-related feelings and move to a place of contentment. Therefore, seeking out help for such emotions can be the step you need in understanding how to live after being diagnosed with HIV.


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