Psychological symptoms associated with genital herpes virus infections: epidemiology and approaches to management

CNS Drugs. 2005;19(4):303-12. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200519040-00003.


Genital herpes is a common, chronic, recurrent, viral sexually transmitted infection (STI) occurring worldwide. The first episode may be severe and prolonged, but most recurrences are usually short lived and minor. Although most individuals with this infection have no symptoms, STIs, including genital herpes, often cause psychological and psychosexual morbidity. Unfortunately, the existing data on the psychological symptoms associated with genital herpes have many limitations, including anecdotal reporting, evaluation of small and selected populations, use of varied and sometimes unevaluated questionnaires, and lack of controls. Some individuals with recurrent genital herpes display a range of emotional responses, including depression, anguish, distress, anger, diminution of self-esteem and hostility towards the person believed to be the source of infection. However, it is always important to consider the possibility of pre-existing psychopathology. Several retrospective studies have suggested that stress could lead to recurrences of genital herpes infection. However, prospective studies have been unable to demonstrate any relationship between pre-existing stress and recurrences. What these studies were able to demonstrate was that stress and recurrences occurred simultaneously, suggesting that perhaps it was the recurrences that were causing stress, rather than the reverse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management
  • Herpes Genitalis / complications
  • Herpes Genitalis / drug therapy
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Genitalis / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*