When you’re diagnosed with herpes, you feel a lot of feelings. Shame, rage, confusion, sorrow, overwhelm—even acceptance, calm, or resolve. After all, this diagnosis isn’t only a physical thing—it impacts all aspects of your life, from your physical health to your emotional and mental health.
And we think the mental health aspect of a genital herpes diagnosis is way underdiscussed. You deserve support, care and consideration for your feelings as well as for your body.
Here are our suggestions for six ways to support your mental health after a herpes diagnosis.
1. Learn about herpes: One of the most important things you can do is educate yourself about your condition. Although it can feel overwhelming to be diagnosed with an STI, herpes is very very common and is often quite treatable with medication (although it is not curable). Read credible sources about genital herpes (like our blog, especially our FAQ), the CDC, and other reputable medical sources.
It may also be helpful for you to read personal experiences of others with herpes and join communities of other people who have herpes (there are active ones on Reddit, Facebook, and other social media platforms).
Yes, a diagnosis of genital herpes will change your life. But it doesn’t have to limit your life!
2. Make a treatment plan: Talk to your medical provider about a treatment plan for your herpes. If you don’t have enough time at the appointment when you receive the diagnosis, make a follow-up appointment or ask the provider to set aside time for a phone call where you can get all of your questions answered.
Consider what factors are important to you and your lifestyle, such as your level of sexual activity, frequency and severity of outbreaks, and more. Do you want to go on prescription antivirals? Are there holistic or natural supplements you may want to take? What seems to trigger outbreaks for you—is there anything you can do to lessen them? How will you handle having an outbreak? What things can you do to ease an outbreak when one occurs? Making a plan can help you feel more in control of your genital herpes.
3. Share with a trusted person: It’s so important to get support during this time. Although there is often a great deal of shame and stigma around having genital herpes, sharing your diagnosis with a trusted friend, family member, or partner can provide some much-needed emotional and mental support for you. Choose someone you know will not judge you for having a common sexually-transmitted infection.
Be up-front with the person about your diagnosis and that you are looking for some emotional support. If you need to, ask for specific help, such as a conversation to share your feelings or that the person be available for text support if you’re feeling low.
4. Feel your feelings: There are no wrong feelings in this situation. Whatever sentiments you’re feeling in your mind, heart, and body, accept those emotions. As much as you can, try not to judge yourself—for getting herpes in the first place or for however you’re feeling about it. It’s not your fault and you can’t control your feelings.
You will likely move through different stages as you process the information about herpes and integrate the condition into your life—that’s normal and expected. Continue to let yourself feel your feelings. Above all, be gentle with yourself—you’re the only you you have.
5. Consider mental health support: Now is a great time to reach out to a mental health provider like a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Even if you don’t feel upset about having herpes, establishing a relationship and rapport with a mental health professional can be so useful for the future, no matter what twists and turns life takes. After all, studies show that herpes outbreaks are triggered by stress. So having some go-to mental health support can not only help you feel better emotionally, but can also actually lessen your herpes symptoms.
If you’re not able to access mental health services in your area in person, online services like BetterHelp or Canopie can be an easy way to connect with someone for help.
6. Continue checking in with your mental health: As time goes on, continue to take stock of how you’re feeling, both about having genital herpes and in general. Modern life can be stressful—staying aware of your own baseline will help if you start to feel things changing for you, mentally or emotionally.
One 2012 study found a higher incidence of depression in people who have herpes (specifically, HSV-2). Be sure to keep alert for the signs and symptoms of depression, including persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in things you enjoy. Changes in sleep, appetite, energy and more can also be linked to depression.
However your mental health is impacted by having genital herpes, it is completely possible to live a full, healthy life. You’ve got this! We are building a resource center for you and your loved ones - to answer your questions and feel supported. Take a look at all of our all-natural products for genital herpes, including a Immunity & Stress Support dietary supplement.