How Can Brain Injury Affect a Person's Sexuality?
How can brain injury affect a person's sexuality?
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[Glenn Parkinson] People very often times experience issues related to sexuality after any kind of injury. People become more focused on their physical body, and sexuality clearly is one of the—it's something that's very physical that sometimes people aren't as in touch with. And so when you have an injury to your physical body, you become much more aware of the different physical functions of your body. For someone with brain injury, depending on the nature of their injury, they could be motoric in terms of their motor functioning, their ability to speak, which is both a cognitive as well as a physical function depending upon what kind of injury they sustain. So people become, I think, much more attuned to ways in which their bodies work in general. When someone has a traumatic brain injury, there's a whole variety of things that can impact them in terms of their sexual self. If they have an injury which impacts some of their executive functioning— a frontal lobe injury—that can have a huge impact on issues related to judgment— risk-taking behavior, disinhibition—all those kinds of things which can come out in sexual behavior as well as other ways. People also can have other mood-related symptoms— depression, anxiety—which can impact the way that someone feels about themselves sexually, their ability to relate to other people, which of course is part of a sexual relationship, and often times also people are on medications which impact either their ability to perform sexually or their libido, which is just a fancy word for desire— someone's interest in sex. It really runs the gamut, and traumatic brain injury, unlike other physical injuries, is interesting because it has the component— often times people have the experience of hyper-sexuality. They become more sexual—more sexually aroused. They have more sexual behaviors. It's more common with other sorts of injuries that people more of a depressive effect on either their libido or their ability to interact sexually. Traumatic brain injury, unlike others, it really does run the gamut in terms of increasing sex drive, increasing sexual-seeking behavior as well as avoidance of that.
Posted on BrainLine May 13, 2013.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.
Glenn Parkinson, MSW, MA works as the psychotherapist on the Traumatic Brain Injury service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. She works with active duty and retired military personnel and their families specializing in combat-related injuries.