TAFP member warns of “Seductive Delusions”

Tags: book, patient education, sexually transmitted disease, testing

TAFP member warns of “Seductive Delusions”

You’ve probably seen it happen countless times in your practice. Confident, intelligent teens and young adults exhibit shocked disbelief upon learning that the burning sensation they described actually isn’t a urinary tract infection. After all, sexually transmitted diseases only happen to other, more promiscuous people, right?

Austin family physician Jill Grimes, M.D., calls this belief a “seductive delusion,” and after having the conversations time and again in her practice, she decided to do something about it. In her new book, “Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs,” Grimes uses fictional stories based on her practice experience to not only provide information on 10 of the most common STDs, but also to illustrate the fact that anyone can contract them.

“I didn’t start out wanting to write a book,” she says, but high school students, college students and other young adults from all walks of life kept showing up in her exam room with STDs. She says the most prevalent in her practice was genital herpes acquired during oral sex, the news of which would leave patients “just sobbing hysterically, saying ‘but I didn’t even have sex. How can I have this?’ I just felt like clearly I’m failing and somehow we’re not getting the message across.”

She noticed that patients would often come in with specific and detailed questions spurred by episodes of “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” so she began to write stories about the kinds of patients she treated. “People like it because it’s stories,” she says. “People remember stories; they don’t remember statistics.”

For each STD except the chapter on cervical cancer, Grimes tells the stories of a male character and a female character, then follows with an informative list of quick facts and frequently asked questions about the disease. With familiar yet interesting characters and quick, witty dialogue, the stories read like TV scripts. It’s easy to become rapt in the tales. Grimes says she puts copies of the book in her exam rooms and often catches patients pouring over them when she enters the room.

She hopes the book will become a tool for her fellow family physicians to communicate the risks and dangers associated with such a taboo topic as STDs. “As a physician first and foremost, the whole marketing portion is a little awkward, but I want physicians to know about it. My partners love it.”

A board-certified family physician, Grimes is in private practice at West Lake Family Practice, works intermittently at the University of Texas Health Services in Austin and is an associate editor for the “5-Minute Consult” textbook.