Receiving an sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnosis can be a jarring, frightening, and even a surreal experience. While reactions may vary depending on the specific diagnosis, people who have been told that their testing has come back positive often describe feeling ashamed and hopeless.

You aren’t alone in having these emotions, so avoid carrying these gut emotions with you. Look at the stats: STDs are extremely common in the U.S., affecting 110 million people — over a third of the population in the States. Twenty million new STDs are diagnosed each year. Looking back in despair or harboring guilt about such a common issue won’t help you determine what to do next.

Instead, focus on the positive. Seeking out your diagnosis was an excellent first step toward figuring out the roadmap for a healthy life. Let’s discuss how this path forward will look:

Day-to-Day Practices to Stay Healthy

Your first priority after being diagnosed with an STD should be to begin putting your health first.

Here are some common daily practices you should begin following in order to protect yourself and others:

  • Immediately begin practicing safe sex, as well as disclosing your diagnosis to anyone with whom you are sexually active.
  • If you have a condition that affects your immune system, such as HIV, keep in mind that you’ll have to take efforts to avoid getting sick. Wash your hands more frequently and avoid contact with those who are sick.  
  • Practice mindfulness. Focusing on your breathing and meditating can help you clear your mind of negative emotions. Some physical activity, such as light exercise or yoga, can also help you find your emotional balance. Avoid drugs or alcohol, as they can make depressive thoughts resurface.
  • Follow any other orders or medication plans your doctor has given to you. When it comes to the latter, try to take your pills at the same time every day in order to avoid forgetting them.

If you opt for a holistic approach — using natural remedies to treat or manage your condition — be sure to do your research first. Focus on using proven, evidence-based medicines when selecting natural remedies. For example, lemon balm and Glycyrrhiza glabra (the plant that licorice is derived from) can be used to combat genital warts.

There are also steps you should follow to stay emotionally healthy after receiving an STD diagnosis. Once you feel comfortable doing so, discuss your diagnosis with your loved ones. Their support can go a long way in helping you make these changes in your life. There are a number of STD myths that may affect their perception of you. If you encounter these viewpoints, educate them about your diagnosis.

If you need additional support, consider seeking out an STD support group or connecting with other people in your community. Reconnecting with others after experiencing the shock of receiving an STD diagnosis can be difficult, but socializing can help you on your journey forward.

  • If you want to look online, you can find support groups through The STD Project or in forums. This is a great way of airing out frustrations to an empathetic ear, discussing your hardships, and developing lifelong friendships.
  • You can also look to your local community. Local support groups are a valuable option, but they are only one avenue for reaching out. Any activity that can get you out, meeting new people, and doing constructive work can help. Some people diagnosed with STDs have claimed that participating in yoga helps them cope. Community gardens are another example of a way to combine meditative tasks with socializing for emotional support.

Keeping in Contact With Your Provider

As noted above, you’ll need to keep in contact with your provider in order to ensure your well-being. Most providers suggest annual checkups for people living with STDs. Even if you don’t feel like your condition has worsened, you should make time to do so.

While many people fear going to the doctor, you’ll need to be transparent about your condition and any new symptoms that may surface. This will assist your doctor in making an accurate diagnosis and determining if you have any comorbid conditions — and, of course, it is only then that they will be able to help you. This will help your doctor get a thorough understanding of your needs and equip you with any advice or prescriptions you may need to live healthfully.

Of course, communication is a two-way street. Typically, your doctor will try to be transparent with any tests or exams that they’ll need to do. However, if you ever have any questions, ask! If it’s been weeks and you haven’t been informed about test results, call and ask for them. Stay informed about your condition and, if possible, request copies of your tests and exams.

In order to ensure your physical and mental well-being, it’s necessary to change your day-to-day routine with your diagnosis in mind. You need to continue communicating with both your loved ones and your doctor. If you need emotional support, seek out social groups to discuss your issues. Above all, you must learn that, even after contracting an STD, you can live a healthy, meaningful life. As you draft the roadmap for your future, keep in mind that your diagnosis does not define you — your choices going forward do.

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