Whether you’ve been having sex for a while, or you’ve just started having sex, STIs (sexually transmitted infections) can affect anyone – no matter your gender, sexual identity or preference.
If you’ve recently found out you have an STI, you simply have to deal with it. While it can seem like a scary subject, managing your physical and mental health is important after receiving an STI diagnosis.
1. Know it’s ok to be upset
Getting an STI is no fun – they can be painful, uncomfortable or just plain embarrassing.
You may wish to talk about your diagnosis with someone you trust, like a close teacher, counsellor or family member. If you feel like you need extra support, you can also reach out to your local mental health professional.
Know that you might feel a range of emotions, and recognising that what you feel is valid is an important step to moving on and recovering.
2. Don’t put yourself down
A lot of stigma still exists around STIs. The truth is, they’re more common than you might think.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing, instances of STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea have increased dramatically in the last 20 years. In 2017 alone, more than 350,000 Australians reported having chlamydia – it’s incredibly common!
Remember, an STI diagnosis says nothing about your sexual history – all it means is that you may need to practice safer sex. One of the easiest ways you can do this is by having a yearly STI check. This can be easily done as part of your regular visit to your general practitioner (GP) or at a headspace centre.
Remember, just because you have one doesn’t make you any less of a person – having an STI doesn’t define who you are.
3. Inform your partners
An STI diagnosis can come as a bit of a shock, no matter your relationship status.
Starting a discussion with others about sexual issues like STIs isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s totally normal to feel embarrassed at first. But once you have the conversation, you’ll start to feel better.
These conversations can be especially difficult if you’ve recently broken up with someone, or one person has been unfaithful in the relationship. The key to a successful conversation about sexual health is to communicate openly and honestly with your partner.
While these conversations can be uncomfortable and even painful at times, it’s important to tackle the situation head-on. Be proud of yourself for taking this honest step, no matter how your partner reacts to the news.
4. Take care of yourself
Your mental health can take quite a hit after an STI diagnosis. It’s important you take extra care of yourself, both physically and mentally.
Your GP may put you on a round of antibiotics or other treatments to deal with the infection and symptoms. But taking care of your mental health is important, too.
Take some time to do what makes you feel good, either by yourself or with supportive friends or family. Practising self-care is equally important, whether that means being active outside, taking time out for a massage or simply immersing yourself in your favourite hobby.
Remember, an STI isn’t the end of the world
Like any other illness, most STIs are treatable and usually go away with the right care. Having an STI doesn’t mean the end of your love life – or even your sex life! Being informed, taking action and staying positive will all help you to move forward.
If you’re struggling to deal with your STI diagnosis, you can reach out to a friendly headspace clinician. Find your local headspace centre today.