Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sex (or the lack thereof) and PTSD

I'm in the middle of doing some site updates to our main site (http://www.familyofavet.com) and while updating our page about "PTSD and Intimacy" ran across a blog post on WebMD that I had to share... actually, I was so driven to share it that I've momentarily taken a break from updating to write this blog post!

I am thankful (oh, so thankful!) to have a hubby who encourages and stands behind my "no holes barred" approach to sharing the details of our life with PTSD and TBI.  He, in typical hero fashion, thinks that it's more important for us to reach out and help others than it is to "keep quiet" about things people might not typically share.  This mutually shared philosophy is one of the reasons why FamilyOfaVet.com was started!

So, we're pretty open about the fact that our sex life pre-PTSD and TBI rocked (literally) but our sex life since "beastie boy PTSD" showed up is another story.  Fueling intimacy in our marriage is a constant "project"... one we succeed at sometimes, and miserably fail at during others.

Now, I've been talking to people for years about this subject... telling veterans and spouses that REALLY they are not the only ones... that "ABSOLUTELY" it is a common (extremely common) issue in marriages with PTSD.  I know it is common because I've spoken with (by phone, e-mail, Facebook, etc.) literally thousands of people about this issue over the past few years.

But, today, I have scientific proof!  And, I wanted to share that with all of you so that if you're still in the "I feel so alone because we must not be 'normal'" boat, you can know, once and for all, that you are normal (at least in PTSD world)!

A blog post on WebMD entitled PTSD and Sexuality which covers PTSD in general (not just combat-related PTSD) says that **90%** of couples experiencing PTSD report sexual issues.  And, while this particular article is discussing sexuality and women, even the author references applying the information to a veteran of Iraq.  Now if we go with the estimate of 1 in 5 of the approximately 2 million veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan having PTSD (which would be 400,000), that means 360,000 of them are experiencing issues with intimacy in their relationships.  It's kind of hard to say you're "not normal" in a group of 360,000 people just like you!

Well, back to work for me... but there you go... irrefutable proof that you are absolutely not alone :)

Hugs,
Brannan

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

18 comments:

  1. In our case, my husband after his TBI and PTSD now is hypersexual.. he wants sex all the time. His psychiatrist said that is very common with the type of brain damage he has. This has also caused problems for us, since I'm not really into having sex twice a day. Honestly sex is pretty low on my priority list, I'm just too drained emotionally to want to deal with it.

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  2. I spoke with another veteran lately who had that same issue... it seems to be a "feast or famine" sort of thing... with very few PTSD couples falling in the middle!

    ~Brannan

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  3. For me it's NO interest in me, but porn is just fine. Which he says is more like a physical need to evacuate then sexual. Although he has trouble with truth so who knows. Regardless, it does not feel great on my end. We were the same, great sex life pre-PTSD/TBI. So, my question is will this last forever? Or is it something we can find yet another specialty Dr. for? He see's the whole list, P.T., O.T.,Speech, individual and group sessions for both, etc...Trying to stay positive on a day filled with frustrations! Thanks for your post!

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  4. The porn thing is unfortunately common (in my personal / non-medical degree opinion I think it has a lot to do with the fact that there's no feeling / emotional connection required for 2D images). I know, for many though, that can be really hard to deal with. I'm sorry. Our personal experience and the experience of many other couples I know is that the intimacy issues do begin to level out at some point. Things are much better for us now at the 4-1/2 yr point than they were at the 3 yr point - still not back to the pre-PTSD/TBI days (may never be), but at least are better. Have you tried couples counseling? That helps for some. It's available at VA Vet Centers for free. ((HUGS))

    ~Brannan

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    1. I just wanted to add that couples counseling at the vet center has been a marriage saver for us!! We haven't addressed the sex issue yet but to finally see that there is hope has brought us so much closer together. I recommend it for every one to at least try.

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    2. Would be nice if his doctor would let us make those appointments, lol.

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  5. Thank you for your response! Week days tend to be a whirl wind of appts.so it is hard for me to be prompt. I am gathering support online anywhere I can find it.
    My husband is still active army. So, qualifying for some things is hard. We have found one lead to couples counseling that is free and hopefully PRIVATE. Since the army likes to know EVERYTHING! He is really in the very beginning stages of dealing with this. It does not help that the mental health dept. where we are is a JOKE! So, not only am I trying to find both of us qualified and private therapy, but the same for couples therapy. We are very active with his TBI clinic and have many groups for him.
    I believe once we both have found individual therapist, who we trust and have a strong background in TBI/PTSD, we can begin to focus on us. It is such a crooked path for our soldiers to find acceptance of what it is they are dealing with. Not to mention the complete LACK of care and resources for caregivers while they are still active. In our experience his diagnosis was only a month ago. And he has only seen a counselor twice, the rest of the time there are computer problems, scheduling problems or lack of respect on the counselors part. The great search continues...We are looking into doing yoga together, trying to find an instructor who has experience with TBI/PTSD along with other physical injuries. He had ACL reconstruction and a pending wrist/hand surgery. Along with a future meniscus reconstruction. He also was just diagnosed with sleep apnea, which doesn't lead itself to him healing if he is not sleeping.I am hopeful the CPAP machine will help because none of the sleep meds.do. So, my journey today is to continue to research, continue to build supports for me with all of you amazing and couragious women who are doing GREAT work! I hope to join in this work soon. Again thank you for your response and for having the courage to speak out. It helps me know I am not alone and that spouses are proactive in creating change around these very complex issues. Take care! ((HUGS))

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    1. Please try to fine or ask your doctor about TMS or EST or just look them up on line for your area. It cost alot too.

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    2. We are also experiencing feast or famine while dealing with all of the things he came back from Iraq with. His back and neck injuries and meds. prevent him from having much desire to be intimate and his mood swings and violent temper outbursts prevent me from feeling very intimate. It's rare that we can get all of that in sync at one time. He is normally the sweetest guy ever that tries very hard to make me feel special and loved BUT when the swing goes the other way.....OMG....biggest meanie ever! I don't even want to be in the same room. These seem to be getting worse lately and we are 4 years out now. Not sure what to do.

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  6. I haven't seen much regarding masterbation. My husband can't leave himself alone. He wants sex but only after he has done most of it himself. I am just the finish point with 30 seconds of contact. He doesn't even know I am there. He is willing to seperate over this point. He even talks divorce if it means he needs to give up his self pleasuring addiction. I don't want any kind of relationship sexually anymore and he doesn't care. He just wants sex. He lies and says he isn't masterbating, but it wakes you up at night while he is going at it. It is like being cheated on. I have built up some pretty big walls. I can't stand the thought of intimacy with him at this point. We are struggling. I have never heard of anyone address this issue.

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  7. I just wanted to report my findings: I think it is also based on the types of prescribed medinces they receive. One anti-depressant he tried, he wanted it all the time, the next, not so much.

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    1. Totally agree with this. The one pill that makes him not be such a complete asshole 100% of the time also turns him off sex. Ugh. He can not take the pill, in which case he turns into someone I don't want to have sex with or he can take it and turn into someone who doesn't want sex with me. There is no happy middle.

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  8. My wife and I are both Iraq Vets with PTSD I am in the hypersexual mode all the time I can't get enough and she is in the no sex mode all the time this is a really bad place to be for both of us. I wish I knew how to get us both on the same track or even close.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this info! It is good to know we are not alone! I am experiencing the "feast/famine" rollercoaster ride...My husband was part of OIF 4x...We are surviving by making sure we create intimacy in "other" ways. Back rubs, weekly date night, holding hands in the car...Just the simple things help keep us connected.

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  11. My husband is a PTSD/TBI vet we are both younger he's 32 I'm 23 and since he came home from deployment he's not so lovey.. He would love to cuddle, hold hands, snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie, or even sleep holding me and now since he's home (3yrs now) he don't do any of these things.. He hardly tells me he loves me.. It's hard he's the love of my life and we have a 2 yr old daughter and it seems like his life revolves around his motorcycle.. He never really wants sex but when he does he always waits Til late night & I'm in school and it's hard to juggle school stress, PTSD/TBI stress, sexual stress and the stress of being a parent of a toddler.. I've tried to change things up like throwing myself at him (some times stark naked) and he doesn't even try.. I feel as if he's not attracted to me anymore... What do I do?

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  12. I am just happy to find others in the same boat. It seems to come and go in waves of hypersexual periods with my husband (4 yrs. Post PTSD/ TBI diagnosis- OIF/OEF Vet.). I try to be understanding and usually go through the motions most of the time, but there is a real disconnect. He seems to have little to NO regard for my needs ever, yet as a mom of 3 under 10 and a full time public school teacher I am supposed to drop everything at a moments notice when his desires take over. I am at a loss, exhausted and just wishing we could be intimate like we used to, when it really seemed to have some kind of feeling for both of us. If I ever try to suggest things to help me more, he just seems to find a way of making me feel inadequate. Unfortunately I fear if I don't "play along" he will just find someone who will fulfill his indulgences.

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  13. Thank you all for sharing. It's an eye opener for me. In my house our roles are reversed. I'm a female combat veteran with PTSD and I'm hypersexual. It gets me so angry that my husband is almost asexual. I work full time, take care of the kids and household and I feel so neglected when it comes to intimacy. At first it pisses me off and then I lash out at him and he withdraws. It's a devastating cycle. I try to be nice about it and then we work together to make it better...then we go right back to the same cycle. It's so frustrating and I know that my PTSD has a direct effect on this I just want to be on the same track again. I really am trying.

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