How Can PTSD Impact Sexuality and Intimacy?


How can PTSD impact sexuality and intimacy?


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[Glenn Parkinson] If you're avoiding people, you don't want to go out, you don't want to talk to people, you don't want to talk about your feelings, and you feel kind of numb. You can't numb out part of your emotions. You can't numb out feelings of fear, vulnerability, rage—all those things— without also numbing out feelings of love and tenderness and curiosity about people. All those things kind of get tamped down. Re-experiencing— if someone touches you, and this sort of sets off a physiological trigger for you somehow. Or if you're lying in bed with someone and feeling like you're not really sure when you wake up—well, who is that— or feeling vulnerable because you don't have control over your environment. All of these sorts of things can have an impact on someone's ability to relate to someone else—either the physical aspects of being sexual. Again, also we talked about sexuality as a sense of being free and losing control, and that's part of the pleasure of it. But if someone has difficulty losing control because they feel fearful or because they are trained not to, then it's difficult for them to have those experiences. And hyper-arousal—if you're sleep deprived and you're angry all the time, who wants to have sex, right? So again, that's a very generic sort of drop in the bucket, but because there is a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder in the population of combat-deployed military, it's really important to think about those aspects of it as well and the way in which that impacts people's ability to have social relationships in general, much less the much more deeply intimate and personal experience of being sexual with someone.
Posted on BrainLine May 13, 2013.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

About the author: Glenn Parkinson

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.

Glenn Parkinson