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What Are the Effects of PTSD on Sex?

Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Among the effects of PTSD on sex are a decrease in libido and, for some sufferers, a deliberate refraining from intimacy. While PTSD can prohibit some from having a healthy sexual relationship, treatment often helps. For some people, however, medications commonly prescribed for anxiety, including those prescribed for post traumatic stress disorder, sometimes have a diminishing affect on a person's sex drive. Although this is a chemically induced reduction in drive, many still consider this to be an effect of PTSD on sex.

Post traumatic stress disorder, frequently referred to as PTSD, is an emotional and psychological response to a sudden but extremely stressful event. In some cases, the reaction to such an event can also prompt a physical response as is found in studies of the effects of PTSD on a sexual relationship. Some who suffer from this condition share that it is easier to experience sexual intimacy with a stranger than it is with a partner. Many report, however, that a complete decline in libido occurs as result of PTSD. Psychologists and other researchers who closely study the lives of people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder also report that this is sometimes the case.

One of the many different causes of PTSD is sexual trauma. In girls and women with PTSD, it is often found that a complete and ongoing lack of interest in sex or even extreme anxiety about sexual intimacy exists, particularly if the disorder was triggered by incest or rape. The effects of PTSD on a relationship may even require a woman and her partner to engage in counseling together in an effort to understand and overcome this disorder.

While many psychologists prescribe anti-anxiety medications for people with this condition, some medications have been known to cause a decline in sexual arousal. In some men with PTSD, medications have rendered them impotent. Although this is a common side effect of certain anti-anxiety medications, many consider this as also being related to the effect PTSD has on sex.

Treating PTSD can sometimes be difficult, particularly in people who do not respond well to medications. Other methods include psychotherapy and can be effective. Given time, many people can and do recover from post traumatic stress disorder and, as they do, the effect of this on their sex lives also diminishes. Natural treatments, such as meditation and hypnosis, are sometimes recommended as well.

In addition to its effects on sex, other signs of PTSD include insomnia, social withdrawal and repeated flashbacks of the traumatic event. Physical symptoms include chest pains, profuse sweating and muscle twitches. Among more severe cases, people with PTSD may experience suicidal thoughts or may act aggressively toward others.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.

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Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Jul 09, 2014

I read a story recently about soldiers and PTSD. You might be surprised at how many of the troops who engage in war and conflicts are affected by this disorder. I know we are learning more about the condition, but there are still a lot of people who are never diagnosed or treated, so they just keep everything bottled up inside until something triggers a reaction.

By Feryll — On Jul 08, 2014

@Drentel - I have heard the same things about prisoners. Inmates who are raped in prison also have a tough time with sex after they are released. Some of them associate sex with weakness after prison, and others become violent in sexual situations because they began to associate sex and violence in prison.

By Drentel — On Jul 07, 2014

Prisoners often have problems having sex because of what they go through in prison. I have a friend who works as a guard in a prison. He said that in some of the prisons where he has worked the prisoners were able to have visits from their wives and girlfriends. The prison had trailers set up where the couples could spend an hour together every so often and have sex.

You would think every prisoner in the place would be trying to take advantage of those visits, but many off the guys didn't want their girlfriends and wives to visit because with all of the stuff they were going through on the inside, the last thing they were thinking about was having sex.

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
Learn more
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