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Sexual Health Issues for Post-Combat Soldiers

Changes in the Sex Lives of Soldiers After Combat

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Updated July 14, 2010

Most service members who have been deployed to a combat zone say the experience changes them. They may have physical changes as a result of an acute injury (loss of limbs, burns, scars, paralysis); they may be living with back and joint pain or repetitive stress injuries; they may have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which may change how they think more than how they look; they may also have psychological changes as a result of what they experienced during combat (anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, depression, military sexual trauma). Because sexuality is a part of who we are, all of these changes can impact sexuality as well.

You may consider sexuality low down on your list of priorities, or it might be the first thing you think about after an injury. Regardless of where it is on your list, it’s important to know that when you want it, including during times of trauma, you can have a healthy and fun sex life. It may take communication, creativity, and patience, but with the right information and support it’s available to you.

If you’re thinking about how your sex life has been changed by being in combat a good way to start is by learning about some of the ways it has changed for other service members during war time. Below are links to more detailed information about the changes you might experience, along with suggestions on how to deal with these changes and where to go for more help.

Changes in Sexual Functioning and Response
Describes the ways that combat and combat injuries can affect your sexual functioning and response including erections, vaginal lubrication, orgasm, and sexual desire.

Changes in the Mechanics of Sex
Describes changes you may have to make in the physical way you have sex including finding new sex positions and sex techniques that work for you and your partner.

Changes in Access to Sex
Combat injuries, particularly when they mean living with a disability, can change your access to sexual partners, sexual entertainment, and opportunities to have sex.

Changes in Your Sexual Thoughts
Combat, being wounded in combat, and/or witnessing others in danger probably changed the way you think about a lot of things – including sex. Here are some of the ways that combat can change your sexual thoughts and ideas on dealing with those changes.

Changes in Sexual Feelings
Whether you consider yourself to be an “emotional” person or not, feelings play a significant role in our sex lives, even if we never talk about them. Many realities of combat can negatively impact the way you feel about sex

Changes in Your Sexual Partner
Long separations due to deployment, followed by time spent in hospital for treatment and rehabilitation, can put a strain on any relationship, and your sex life may be one of the first things to go. Even if you’re the one who experienced combat injuries or other trauma, your partner may be changed by your experiences as well.

Read more: Interviews about Post-Combat Sex

Interview with B.J. and Abby Jackson – Creating a Sex Life after Combat

Interview with Dr. Mitch Tepper – Working to Address Sexuality for Wounded Warriors

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