How to Deal With Low Self-Esteem Following an STI Diagnosis

July 31, 2019 Sam Woolfe

Getting diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI, once called a sexually transmitted disease or STD) can be a tough experience. An STI diagnosis can result in all sorts of intense emotions and feelings: shame, regret, self-blame, anger, depression, and anxiety. For many people, these feelings arise, not so much because of the physical issues linked to the STI, but because of the stigma associated with it. Due to the stigma linked to STIs, a lot of newly diagnosed people may also notice that their self-esteem drops – or even plummets. Here, we will take a look at how the stigmatization of STIs contributes to low self-esteem and what you can do about it if you’re experiencing this problem.

Low Self-Esteem After an STI Diagnosis

Following an STI diagnosis, you may come to believe all sorts of harsh and judgmental things about yourself. Stigma related to the STI may make you think that you’re “immoral,” “dirty,” or “stupid.” Moreover, if you have an incurable and highly stigmatized STI like herpes, you may have the opinion of yourself that you are "damaged," “unlovable,” and “undesirable,” and you may feel like you won't be unable to enjoy sex, dating, or relationships ever again. Of course, this simply isn’t true. Having an STI doesn’t make you a bad person nor does it have to leave you with the burden of negative self-talk.

Maintaining Self-Esteem with an STI Diagnosis

If you’re feeling down about yourself following an STI diagnosis, it’s important to take a step back and adopt a realistic perspective on STIs. Keep these points in mind:

  • An STI diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you’re irresponsible. You can be in a monogamous relationship and practice safe sex, yet still contract an STI.
  • STIs are incredibly common. While you may feel shame about an STI diagnosis, believing that you’ve been singled out as a pariah, many people you know will get an STI at some point, have one already, or be close to someone who has been diagnosed with one.
  • Recognize that the low self-esteem following an STI diagnosis is down to stigma: how others and society at large perceive STIs. Take herpes, for instance. This virus is incredibly common, spreads easily, and often only results in minor symptoms (if any, at all) – yet, many people diagnosed with the skin condition feel deeply ashamed by it. This is due to negative public perceptions, fuelled by a lack of education.
  • An STI doesn’t take away any of the attributes, qualities, and virtues that define your self-esteem. You can still be a good partner to someone, in spite of having an STI. Don’t reject yourself for having an STI as a way to save yourself from rejection by others. If someone genuinely appreciates you for who you are, then they won’t reject you – they probably won’t even care about your STI.

Of course, you may realize that (part of) the reason you got an STI was down to a mistake or ignorance about sexual health. But that’s no reason to beat yourself up. You’re only human, trying to have a sex life like everyone else, and making some blunders along the way. That’s completely normal. In order to move forward and protect your self-esteem after an STI diagnosis, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re the same person as you were before the diagnosis. Those who care about you don’t think of you any differently, so try to work on adopting the point of view of your loved ones – this will help you to recover from the emotional impact of your STI diagnosis.

APA Reference
Woolfe, S. (2019, July 31). How to Deal With Low Self-Esteem Following an STI Diagnosis, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Author: Sam Woolfe

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