Safety Issues, Mental Health, and HIV Diagnosis

Our various personal beliefs, in this case about safety issues, affect our mental health. These beliefs are relative to ourselves and to other people or groups. All these beliefs can be challenged when you go through a traumatic event or a traumatic health diagnosis. In my case, my near-death hospitalization with Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) and my following HIV diagnosis challenged my safety-related beliefs.

Safety beliefs related to self

Personal safety beliefs revolve around our sense of control over events and the belief that we can protect ourselves. Beliefs such as, "I can protect myself," and "It cannot happen to me" would fall under these self-safety beliefs.

Prior negative experiences

If you previously experienced many uncontrollable life situations, you may have negative beliefs about your ability to protect yourself. A traumatic life event would confirm these negative beliefs.

Prior positive experiences

Previous positive life experiences regarding the ability to protect yourself could be shattered by a traumatic event.

Safety beliefs related to others

Our safety beliefs related to others are related to our beliefs about how dangerous other people are to us and the expectancies concerning other people's intent to harm us. These beliefs could be "others will never hurt me" or "others are out to harm me.”

Prior negative experiences

If your previous life experiences showed people to be dangerous or that violence was normal, a traumatic event would confirm these beliefs.

Prior positive experiences

If you had previous experiences with people that showed them to be safe, you may have expectations that others would help keep you safe and a traumatic event could shatter these beliefs.

My personal safety issues

I personally had mostly positive prior experiences regarding both my safety self-beliefs and safety beliefs regarding others. My trauma destroyed my beliefs. It made me doubt the ability of healthcare providers, the honesty of others when it comes to protecting me, and my own ability to keep myself safe.

Some of the symptoms I have that indicate low safety beliefs related to self include:

  • Chronic anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fears of future victimization

Some of the symptoms I have that indicate low safety beliefs related to others include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Fear of sitting with my back to people

My own mental health stuck points

I have some of my own stuck points related to safety issues.

One of my safety-related stuck points revolves around medical professionals. This belief would be that it is not safe to trust new doctors because they will not treat my issues aggressively enough, which results in me getting sicker instead of better.

Realistically, the alternative thought that I need to focus on is that there are bound to be other doctors who are not scared to treat issues aggressively. I cannot be the only patient who is resistant to medications and easily gets sick.

Components of our mental health

While they vary, both safety beliefs related to self and to others are important components of our mental health. It is important that we can work on these components so that we are able to be a better version of ourselves.

How are your safety beliefs related to yourself and to others? What effect have they had on your life?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The H-I-V.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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