Having a great and healthy sex life while navigating PTSD has almost nothing to do with what goes on in the bedroom and has everything to do with you navigating yourself and your emotions before the sex.
PTSD tends to be a hidden and not really spoken about topic when it comes to the behavioral part of our mental health. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that occurs after a traumatic/stressful event that causes a slew of different symptoms such as:
- Little to no sex drive
- Memory Suppression
- Difficulty Focusing
- Low sex drive, etc.
People often associate it with individuals who were in the military or have been to war/combat when it can occur to anyone who has experienced any type of traumatic event or mental/physical abuse.
PTSD is underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed in women
Unfortunately, women are often overlooked, undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed by health professionals. Many women who have experienced a traumatic event or abuse do not even realize they have the disorder. As women we often internalize our emotions, symptoms, and dismiss ourselves instead of trying to navigate through our feelings. This affects the emotional and sexual relationships we have with our partner. According to the American Psychology Association, “Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD, experience a longer duration of posttraumatic symptoms and display more sensitivity to stimuli that remind them of the trauma.”
How to work outside the bedroom for healthy sex
When a person with PTSD opens up about their PTSD to their partner, it can make them feel very exposed and uncomfortable. It can be difficult to establish intimacy and care for someone who has issues expressing emotions and whom you feel disconnected from. But there is some good news: you can have PTSD and still have healthy intimate sex life! Here are some ways to navigate the bedroom and PTSD:
With PTSD comes being hypervigilant when it comes to feeling safe. Creating safe spaces in your home where you can reflect, meditate, and be in your own thoughts are helpful when it comes to navigating your feelings. A safe space can also be a person. Having a person that you can speak through your feelings with can also help you sort your feelings out by talking about it. Feeling like you are in a safe space can allow the groundwork for intimacy to be built.
When you experience trauma, any emotions you felt at the time will be the same way your body responds when you are triggered. It is really important to be aware of what triggers set off your PTSD symptoms so that you can deal with them in a healthy manner. Oftentimes people will have onset feelings of emotions that will cause them to become anxious, withdrawn, depressed, or irritable because of an unknown trigger. When you feel a sudden onset emotion, try to go back and recall the events or conversations that may have subconsciously upset you. Knowing what triggers you, can decrease the amount of unwanted emotions and focus on the good.
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Create a code word or code action
You may not want to bring up your past over and over again and that is fine! Creating a code word to let your partner know not to further a certain topic that is becoming triggering or a code action (such as shaking your head) to let them know that you want them to stop doing a certain action due to being triggered is a good way to keep them abreast of the trigger, without having to dive into a discussion you may not be ready for at that moment.
Talking through emotions can be EXTREMELY difficult but it is necessary. Seeking therapy can help you uncover issues that need to be brought to light to help come up with a healthy plan of action that will be beneficial for you and your relationship.
Sometimes accepting the fact that you have PTSD may cause the road to be harder before it gets better and that is ok. Everyone’s journey with PTSD looks completely different from each other. By being open and honest with yourself, it makes taking the necessary steps easier. It is far from easy but very much so worth it.