It is considered as two of the most restricted topics in our society: sex and trauma. Do you wonder when these two collide, people, hesitate, or stay away from talking about it? Intimacy and rapport between two people can be challenging even without the complex factors of extended separations.
Living in two different lives during that period and the reality that a lot of men in uniform report relationships with their co-workers – not with their significant others – since those people are closest to them and spending more time with them. But still, intimacy for people in uniforms with psychological symptoms that are related to combat exposure is more than just difficult.
Sometimes, it feels like it is impossible to do. And we are not just talking about intimacy, but also sex. Combat veterans, especially males that have PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, are more likely to experience sexually related problems like erectile dysfunctions compared to their civilian counterpart.
People with PTSD have a bigger chance of experiencing these problems. At the peak of the War on Terror, the average age of people being deployed was around 27 years old who are on active duty and 33 years old for National Guard and Reserve. Half of those people deployed in 2010 was between 25 to 34 years old, 72% were aged 25 to 44 years old, and 25% of Marine Corps deployed were under 25 years old. In this article, we will discuss the problems that come with sex and intimacy.
During or just after their sexual prime, men are exposed to almost all potentially traumatic events when they are in combat or operations. Most of them find it difficult to perform their sexual task with their partners. It is true even if the service member or the veteran does not have actualized or been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Information on uniformed female officers with combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is more limited, but it suggests that they also experience the difficulties males have experienced. A lot of PTSD symptoms prevented people that are suffering from it the feeling of closeness, trust, as well as pleasure.
The irritability and numbness that can result in a lack of emotional connectivity and desire for touch, even with people they know love them. There’s a competing satisfaction of being alone at the same time needing to know that someone is there caring for you. Recognizing these two contradictory longings, at the same time being able to communicate with people around you effectively is a very tall order.
How can you tell your loved ones that you need them, but you do not want them near you or they can’t have you? How will you break the news to them without causing damage to their feelings and your relationships? For officers who are not in a relationship, the need will conversely manifest as a hypersexual deed.
The longing for alleviation and connection from loneliness, especially in this age where dating apps are prevalent, it is achieved temporarily without any actual reprieve. But sex acts as a reliable reinforcement. The loneliness that is felt is both abated, even for just a moment, and orgasm is a massive reward by itself.
That is why breaking the cycle, interrupting or reconditioning the learning pattern will pose whole new challenges. So yes, having sex is great, but it can prevent the formation of significant connection with other people.
With broken veteran stereotype aside, there are noticeable Western society’s expectations of manhood and masculinity when it comes to the uniformed men and women. With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder already a stigmatized diagnosis and disorder, sexual dysfunction can be a considerable insult or salt to the wounds and can impact already unstable self-esteem.
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Not only that, the changes in people’s self-esteem can be long-lasting. It means that once the physiological reason for this dysfunction is resolved, the psychological and the emotional damage that follows might persist, maintaining the problem. Sexual health is a state of emotional, social, physical and mental well-being concerning sexuality, and good sexual health can result in a better quality of life.
The opposite is also true. For a lot of service members and veterans, having a good conversation about sexual performance is always laden with shame. Expressing awkwardness with sex feels is equivalent to acknowledging failure, emasculation and weakness.
Conversely, the partner might feel unwanted, undesirable or unattractive. The path towards self-healing appears filled with the opportunity to create more issues and problems. Having that kind of conversation is the first step in improving connection and intimacy. To the veterans and service members: if you are having a lot of problems with the sexual department of your life, you have to remember that you are not alone on this one.
What you are experiencing right now is a real cost and a side effect of war, and there is hope, and most importantly, there is a help. In a perfect world, healthcare providers will initiate the conversation. In the absence of perfection, you need to embrace the mindset that lets you wear the uniform in the first place.
Be strong, be bold and get over it. To the partners: the problem is not you or about you. You need to be patient and understand them. It is not to disprove everything that you have experienced. You have burdens to bear, but when your loved ones are struggling, attempt to be at peace, instead of another fight to be fought.
It is vital to have a healthy sex life. The first step towards a healthy sex life might be a good conversation during a calm moment. You need to talk about reconnection and looking for help together. Just like what they say, you can’t work on a problem alone. You need to reach out to other people and get help from the professionals. Sexual disorders can be treated with the right support. And sometimes these issues are only mental. The best way to deal with this is to talk to a psychologist.