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Signs Your Trauma Is Affecting Your Sex Life
Sex

Signs Your Trauma Is Affecting Your Sex Life

The body keeps score! Trauma can have far-reaching effects on our physical, emotional, and mental health. One area that can be significantly impacted is our sex life. Trauma sticks with us. It lives inside us and our relationships, greatly interfering with our ability to experience pleasure on the deepest of levels. People who have gone through a traumatic experience sometimes can be left feeling emotionally drained and/or have difficulty establishing intimacy. They sometimes even lack a sense of self-worth or find it difficult to be affectionate with a partner.


To learn if your trauma is impacting your sexual relationships, here are some signs to look out for.

1. You avoid sex.

The first sign is a general lack of interest in sexual activity. You may find yourself avoiding or actively running away from any kind of intimacy, whether it be physical or emotional. This could be because you're feeling overwhelmed by the trauma or because you feel like it's not safe to open up emotionally. Either way, it's important to pay attention to what your body and mind are telling you so that you can address the root cause of this behavior.

2. You dissassociate. 

When you don’t feel safe in your body, it blocks you from feeling the depths of your sensations. It is not uncommon for people living with trauma to feel disconnected from their bodies. During sex, the brain releases norepinephrine which is the same hormone that floods the brain when experiencing fear. In the case of trauma, your brain sometimes has trouble separating the normal release of this hormone during intimacy from a traumatic experience.

3. You have poor body image. 

Trauma and body image issues have a complex relationship. Traumatic events can lead to body dysmorphia, which is an extreme preoccupation with one's physical appearance. People who have suffered from traumatic experiences may be more likely to develop negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies, leading to negative body image. Negative body image can also lead to depression and anxiety.

4. You experience painful sex. 

Oftentimes, female trauma survivors suffer from gynecologic issues such as vaginismus, an involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles during penetration. This condition is caused by violence, childbirth trauma, sexual assault, and emotional and/or psychological trauma. Whenever penetration is attempted, the vaginal muscles tighten up, causing extreme discomfort or pain.

5. You have difficulty maintaining intimacy. 

Another sign that trauma is affecting your sex life is the difficulty in maintaining intimacy during sexual activities. This could manifest itself as difficulty staying aroused, difficulty sustaining an erection, difficulty getting into "the mood," or even difficulty communicating openly with a partner about what feels good or doesn't feel good physically and emotionally. All of these issues can point to underlying issues related to the trauma that needs to be addressed before they begin to interfere with relationship dynamics and overall well-being.

6. You have trust issues. 

The lack of trust in a sexual partner can be problematic in a variety of ways due to past trauma. First, being vulnerable is unlikely to happen unless you have faith that the other person won't hurt you physically, mentally, or emotionally. Secondly, it is challenging enough to share your wants and needs without the perception that people are inherently dangerous or that sex leads to betrayal or harm. Sex can be disappointing, triggering, or unsatisfactory if trauma has taught you these things.

Trauma has a wide range of effects on our lives, including our sex lives. If any of these signs resonate with you, it's important to take time for introspection and practice self-care so that you can deal with your past experiences in healthy ways.

While the signs of sexual trauma can be difficult to identify, they can be diagnosed through counseling and therapy. Therapy For Black Girls has a wide network of licensed therapists and online resources that can help you get the help you need. Survivors can also contact their Crisis Text Line by texting the word TRIBE to 741741.

Healing takes time, but it can be done with the proper care and attention paid to our minds and bodies.

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Feature image by Andene Sanchez/ Getty Images

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