Combat, being wounded in combat, and/or witnessing others in danger likely changed the way you think about a lot of things -- and that probably includes how you think about sex. These changes may be due to what you saw and experienced, which could leave you with depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); your sex life also may be affected by traumatic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that seem to change the way your mind works.
Here are a few of the ways we know that combat and combat injuries can change your sexual thoughts as well as some suggestions on dealing with these changes.
Sexual Thoughts You Want
Even when you want to think about sex, you may find that you have fewer sexual thoughts and lose interest in sex faster than you used to. Both PTSD and TBI can be the cause of these kinds of changes. You may also find it difficult to focus on sexual thoughts long enough to get intimate with a partner or initiate sex. Medications that you may be on to treat PTSD, depression, sleep disorders, or other mental health issues can also have an impact on sexual desire and sexual function.
Unwanted Sexual Thoughts
You could also have the experience of thinking about sex more than you want to, which can be frustrating if you aren’t having as much sex as you’d like. Also you may focus on a few negative sexual thoughts. For example, you might focus on thoughts that you’ll never be sexual again, or your partner doesn’t find you attractive, and find yourself unable to stop thinking them.
Sexual Thoughts about Your Body
You may not have given much thought to your body before being injured other than to like it or dislike it based on shape and size, which almost all of us do. But if your injury has changed your body in ways you relate to being a man or a woman (for example if your chest or your genitals look or work differently now) you may find yourself feeling like you’re not a “real man” or “real woman” and also like you’re not a sexual person at all.
Sexual Assault/Military Sexual Trauma
Being sexually assaulted, something that happens to both women and men in the military, can cause major negative associations when thinking about sex, even sex with someone you love and trust. If you haven’t disclosed the assault to anyone, keeping that secret can also get in the way of having enjoyable sex again. It’s very important to try and get help if you think you may be experiencing military sexual trauma. The support is there and can make a difference.
Changes in Memory
Depending on the location and severity of a TBI you may find that you have problems with your memory. This can lead to surprising sexual situations where you forget “what to do next” or feel like you don’t know how to have sex. You may also be interested in sex and tell your partner, but then minutes later forget and lose interest.
Understanding Sexual Situations
TBI can make it more difficult for you to assess sexual situations. This can include how you meet people and flirt, and also how good you are at figuring out if the sexual situation you’re in is risky. You may also not be as good at reading sexual cues as you used to be. This can work both ways -- where you don’t realize that someone is sexually interested in you, and where you think that someone is showing sexual interest when they aren’t.
Generalizing Your Combat Experience
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI, you may find it difficult to get back to thinking about sex the way you used to. This may be a very reasonable response to things you experienced during your service time, and it may take time and some work to ease back into life outside a war zone. For example, if you’ve lost a lot of people during combat, you might come home and expect to lose your romantic partner. On the other hand, you may become afraid of losing them and have difficulties being apart. Either reaction can put a strain on the sexual aspects of your relationship.
Next page....Dealing with Changes in your Sexual Thoughts