Trauma, Sex and the Wounded Warrior

I have had the honor and privilege to have worked with several wounded warriors and their partners.  I have also had the opportunity to provide workshops to veterans and their partners through the Wounded Warrior Project.  What I found is that physical or emotional trauma  can affect self-image and the ability for warriors to be sexually intimate.

Warriors in Recovery

Trauma

Whether physical or psychological, trauma can affect the emotional and sexual relationships of wounded warriors and their partners. Caregivers (who are often the partner/spouse) need support managing their stress and fatigue.  The warrior struggles to reintegrate into their civilian life. 

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Sounds, sights, and smells associated with sex can trigger flashbacks that remind wounded warriors of combat. These symptoms of PTSD can cause wounded warriors emotional distress that may hinder an intimate relationship or sexual activity or lessen the ability to sustain arousal.

Spinal cord injury (SCI)

When a wounded warrior sustains a SCI, he or she may have to relearn bodily functions. In some instances, sexual responses may diminish, disappear altogether, or become cross-wired with other pelvic responses.  In these circumstances, couples need a place to talk openly about the changes they are facing.

Medications

Medication used to alleviate pain and psychoactive drugs that alter one’s mood can affect sexual desire and/or performance.  It is not uncommon for people taking antidepressant medications, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to experience sexual dysfunction, specifically in the areas of arousal and orgasm.

Stress

The demands that come with caregiving may make it difficult to balance your roles as caregiver and partner. No matter how much you love your warrior, caregiving can be emotionally, intellectually, and physically challenging. It is normal for these challenges to affect the intimacy of your relationship.

Helpful Hints

Creativity is essential and do not be afraid to research toys and other equipment that can help in the bedroom. This includes vibrators, swings, pillows and other toys.  The pleasure will come in your working together to create a sensual experience for each other