Emotional Impact of Herpes

Hope After Herpes: The Emotional Impact

Hope after Herpes The emotional impact of the herpes simplex virus can often be the biggest struggle for individuals diagnosed with herpes. Herpes can be classified as either herpes simplex virus type 1, (HSV-I) or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). For purposes of  understanding the emotional impact of HSV-I and HSV-2, the term herpes will be used throughout this tip. Often one’s view of sex, future, and self can be negatively impacted after a herpes diagnosis. One may feel like damaged goods, or may be wondering, “why me?” Everyone has a right to go through the initial emotional reactions being diagnosed with herpes. There will be anger, sadness, humiliation, fear, and desire for isolation. Living with a sexually transmitted infection is life changing, but it does not mean life is over. Time is essential when adjusting to living with herpes, but life continues, and needs to be lived.

Self-confidence is often a tough subject for individuals struggling with herpes. Many individuals lose self-confidence once they feel they are wearing the scarlet letter. A herpes diagnosis can derail the most confident, happy go lucky person. Someone who was confident in their choice of their social circle, someone who never considered themselves to be a slut can begin to question all of this once they experience an outbreak. Living with a virus does not change who someone is at their core. One can still have a good sense of humor, or be a good runner, date many people, be a competent teacher, and be a fabulous lover, all while living with a virus. The only thing you can’t do is donate blood anymore.

The stigma of herpes is still out there. Oral herpes for example, is such a public experience; there is something visible on your lip, so not only is it a reminder to oneself of his/her herpes, it’s a signal to those around the individual of one’s personal situation.. Oral herpes can be embarrassing; it’s visually unappealing, and is blatantly out there for all to see, and difficult to deny or hide. Genital outbreaks can cause one to feel sexually ruined, and they have the proof on his/her genitals. An initial outbreak, regardless of location typically lasts between two to four weeks. While reoccurring outbreaks typically occur about every three months during the first year, the severity and frequency tend to decrease over time. In reality, the outbreak will subside, and there is nothing different about the individual; he/she is still the same person at their core. Herpes or no herpes, most individuals still want to love and be loved, and want to be sexual; herpes doesn’t cancel it all out. While herpes is an STI that is becoming more common everyday, it’s still a rather silent infection; many people have it, but no one is really talking about, and some don’t even know they have it. About 25 to 80 percent of American adults have oral herpes, and one in five adults have genital, and most don’t even know it because the symptoms are so mild, or not at all.

For someone in the early stages of accepting his/her herpes diagnosis tend to view their future differently, believing that their future plans and goals have suddenly changed because of a virus. Future expectations can stay essentially the same. Traveling, working towards that dream job, and falling in love and having good sex are all still achievable dreams for someone living with herpes. A herpes diagnosis does impact a person’s life, but it does not have to destroy it. Disclosing one’s diagnosis, and developing a plan to keep both himself/herself and their partner safe is recommended. This may cause some slight changes, but life will go on. Many people often believe they will no longer be loved or wanted once they disclose their diagnosis. The reality is that the potential for love is still possible, but having an extra obstacle to climb when navigating through relationships will inevitably knock off a percentage of prospective matches. Not everyone will be comfortable with the risk of contracting the herpes virus, no matter how many precautions are taken. However, on the flip side, not everyone will view it as a deal-breaker either. Whether someone is looking for a long term relationship, or a short fling, everyone’s response to dating a male or female who has the herpes virus, will vary. For females living with the herpes virus (oral and genital), they can still give birth to children, and be a parent. A person’s hopes and dreams of being a parent don’t have have to disappear because either parent has herpes. The difference is more medical care will be needed, and ongoing communication with medical professionals is recommended.

The amount and frequency of outbreaks for individuals vary per person. The average number of outbreaks for individuals with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year. Typically there are more outbreaks the first year, and many find that the frequency and severity of outbreaks decreases over time. The silver lining to an outbreak is the opportunity to develop body awareness. As time goes on, one can learn to recognize his or her own pattern, and possible triggers for outbreaks. There is a high correlation between stress and herpes. Other potential outbreak triggers for oral herpes include poor nutrition, stress, illness, and extended exposure to the sun. The ongoing use of stress management techniques, regular exercise, practicing good nutrition and healthy sleep habits can help manage outbreaks.

As for treatment there is no cure, only suppressive therapy to manage the severity and frequency of outbreaks. There are many different types of treatment that range from pills to creams to even supplements for a more alternative approach. The treatments are ever changing for herpes. Talk to your doctor about the latest treatment, and what may be most suitable for you.

It is common for men and women who are diagnosed with the virus, to try and deny or avoid their diagnosis. Often, avoiding anything tends to result in the identified problem to have grown even larger because there was no healing, no resolution had. It’s important for individuals to face their herpes. This may mean opening up about living with the virus to your lover, your friend, or family. For some, it can be letting oneself become emotional about having the virus, whether it’s admitting anger, or expressing sadness through tears. Many men and women feel more aware and in touch with their virus by joining an online message board for individuals with herpes, or joining a herpes support group, picking up literature on living and managing herpes, etc.

While herpes can be uncomfortable, the infection is rarely dangerous in healthy adults. Aspects of  one’s life change, from the importance of health taking on a new meaning, to dealing with the issue of disclosing, as well as how sex is handled. There will now be something new to consider in these areas of one’s life, and that is his/her herpes diagnosis. However, while aspects of your life are changing, the point to focus on is that these aspects still exist in  your life. You are still you, you just happen to be someone living with herpes.

Herpes is almost always viewed as a punishment, but  for those who tackle the diagnosis head on it’s an opportunity almost by force to develop your communication skills. Having stronger communication skills tends to improve your bedroom performance. If you have to talk about using a condom, it may force you to come up with ways to make the condom more sexy, it will push you to become more creative, and think outside the box. Having to disclose personal health information to a partner will make you more vulnerable, and in turn give someone the opportunity to get to know you more quickly, on a deeper level. Taking your virus into consideration when dating, and being sexually active, will almost inevitably cause you to be more selective in who you choose to be involved with. This a new standard you will need to include when selecting friends, lovers, and partners; you will have to ask yourself the question, “can they fully accept me for me?” When some of these people start sticking around, you will most definitely have your answer.