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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How do I reduce my fear of having a PAP test?

    I am 21 and I have PTSD as well as other mental health problems as a result of sexual abuse and rape from a young age. I have never had a pap smear because the thought of having one is way to terrifying and sends me into a massive panic attack. I know that I should have one to be sure but I just don't know if I can handle it. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to reduce the scariness of having one or other options? Thanks
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  • Marie Weiss

    Counselling Psychologist, Psychologist

    Marie has been practising as a Psychologist for over 22 years, specialising in counselling and psychotherapy.She has worked for many years as a student and ... View Profile

    Oh yes, going for a pap smear is anxiety provoking anyway, let alone you're traumatised by sexual abuse. Ofcourse,communicating like this is no substittute for speaking  to you in person and getting to know you as a unique individual, however I will share a few thoughts that may be helpful.

    Firstly, I would take it step by step. 

    A good way to go forward is to expect there to be anxiety in this and that you need to work with this with help and support.

    You haven't said if you are seeing a counsellor now…I have a sense you would have, given what you've been through… If you're not seeing someone now, I would strongly recommend it. There you can get support  and help with the PTSD.  

    Ofcourse, it would be very useful to keep working with what happens when you think about having a pap smear..the panic attacks and how to handle them.
    The nature of anxiety as you would know all too well, is that it blows everything out of proportion and in the case of trauma, often takes us back to the original experience emotionally which of course is in the past, not the here and now..so ofcourse our view of the future becomes very distorted.  That's not the basis on which to make a decision.

    You also haven't mentioned if you have a regular GP..if not then it's very important to find someone you feel very comfortable with.. to build a trusting relationship and  talk about your fears and concerns in the first instance, and then ways it could be approached.  I think so much will probably depend on that relationship and how this is approached by you together.

    I hope some of this may be helpful.  I wish you very well.

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