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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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
In the crazy world of dating, so much attention is placed on the behavior during actual dates. Whether it is choosing the right outfit or making a good first impression, the focus tends to center on the in-person time spent together. But something that often gets overlooked is the significance of "between date behavior (BDB)." BDB is not just generic good morning text messages (that can be sent to 10 women in one minute), but rather text check-ins during the day and even nightly phone calls. This is the time when two people are apart but still find time for connection.
It is during these in-between moments that the foundation of a truly meaningful relationship is often built. A glaring example of what happens when there isn’t BDB is the early relationship between Carrie and Big from Sex and the City. At the beginning of the series, she was so hyper-focused on the time she spent together that she ignored that Big wasn’t calling or texting her often between dates. Instead, he would reach out and send cars based on his convenience… and not hers.
When it comes to dating, don’t be Carrie!
BDB in Dating
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Please realize that 80-90% of your time will NOT be with your partner while seriously dating, so the BDB will also be a significant part of your relationship. Here are some other reasons why what happens when you're not together is just as, if not more, significant than the hours spent face-to-face…
One of the key factors that makes BDB so crucial is authenticity. When we are with someone on a date, it is easy to put on a front (show one’s representative), showcasing our best qualities and concealing our flaws. But it is in our day-to-day interactions, the text messages and phone calls, that our true selves shine through.
Consistency in behavior is an indicator of authenticity. And authenticity builds trust. And trust is the cornerstone of any meaningful relationship.
Speaking of trust, it is one of the foundations of a successful relationship. Building it doesn't happen in a single evening. It's the consistency in behavior between dates that solidifies trust. When your person consistently communicates, shows interest, and keeps it respectful in the moments between your dates, it is reassuring that your potential partner is seriously interested and invested in the relationship.
Also, in between dates, the channels of communication become lifelines that connect two people and nurture emotional intimacy. How you communicate and what you choose to communicate about can significantly impact a growing relationship. Consistent, thoughtful messages and meaningful conversations like sharing your thoughts, dreams, and vulnerabilities can help create a strong emotional bond. Being supportive and understanding during difficult moments can bring you closer together.
While the time spent on a date is super important, the BDB, I would argue, should not be slept on. It's the glue that holds the connection together, builds trust, and sets the stage for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. So, the next time you find yourself waiting for that next date, remember that the journey between those dates is just as significant, if not more so, in the grand scheme of building a meaningful connection.
Hope this helps!
Coach Anwar is a certified dating and relationship coach who has 13 years of experience helping Black and brown women date with strategy, meet relationship-ready men, and get into the best relationship of their lives.
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