Natural history of psychological reaction to genital herpes: A prospective study of woman university students

J. R. Hillard, P. A. Hillard, C. Kitchell, L. Birch, C. Brennan, P. Grubb

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1 Scopus citations


Genital herpes simplex infection causes significant psychological stress, as noted in several previous cross-sectional studies. The current study quantifies the psychological reactions to a diagnosis of genital herpes in a group of university age young women. Twenty-three women, newly diagnosed with culture proven herpes, were interviewed at an initial visit and 6-9 months later. They completed a structured interview, the Impact of Event Scale (IES), Symptom Check List-90 (SCL-90), College Event Scale (CES), and a questionnaire first used by HELP (a herpes resource center). Significant initial levels of acute stress symptoms were demonstrated by measures of intrusive thoughts and avoidance behavior on the IES. This stress reaction had generally resolved by 6-9 months. The SCL-90, however, revealed persistent levels of psychological stress. Attempts to predict individuals or subpopulations at greater risk of distress were unsuccessful, as neither initial IES nor SCL-90 global severity indices were strongly predictive of final IES or GSI. Age, race, history of past sexually transmitted diseases, history of past psychiatric treatment, and the presence of a supportive partner were not correlated with final IES scores. Thus, all individuals must be considered to be at risk for persistent psychological symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-155
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989


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