Military Connection: Sexual Dysfunction May Accompany PTSD

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By Debbie Gregory.

Results from a recent study have been published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicating that there is a correlation between PTSD and sexual dysfunction.

“Persons with PTSD often complain of sexual dysfunction and problems with intimacy more generally, and there’s increasing evidence to support this association,” explained Rachel Yehuda, lead author of the study.

Yehuda is a mental health researcher at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She and her colleagues have identified that the association seems to lie with the brain not being able to differentiate the sensation of arousal from a healthy sexual encounter from the arousal of aggression in a defensive state.

What has also been revealed in this study is evidence that the type of trauma to cause PTSD in an individual does not have a greater or lesser impact to one’s sexual dysfunction. One might assume that PTSD due to rape would, of course, have a high instance of sexual dysfunction. With a study of 4,500 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, a significantly higher instance of sexual dysfunction occurred, indicating that the cause of the PTSD was not a factor, but that the symptoms of PTSD itself were the root of the challenges.

Upon discovering this common thread, it makes sense that the feelings of pleasure, intimacy, trust and safety are highly compromised in those who have PTSD. The risk may manifest in an individual beginning to become aroused in a moment of intimacy, and then become more defensive, not able to succumb to trust or pleasure with the physiological experience.

An additional factor to the complication is the medication needed to counter the symptoms of depression often associated with PTSD. Metabolically, the medications themselves may interfere with sexual functions, making it even more difficult to overcome the issues.

A candid discussion with both partners of the relationship is essential to begin a path to healthy sexual activity. Often erectile dysfunction bears its own stigma and sense of guilt to the individual. But knowing there is a logical reason can help the couple move beyond the instance and develop a strong, supportive relationship. Therapy is highly recommended to guide a couple to understanding their situation, difficulties, and path to engaging in a pleasurable experience.

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Military Connection: Sexual Dysfunction May Accompany PTSD: by Debbie Gregory