Sexuality After Brain Injury
Ginger Nemenz, RN, BSN, CBIS, CCM, access case manager at Shepherd Center, provides suggestions for improving intimacy after brain injury.
Written by Ginger Nemenz, RN, BSN, CBIS, CCM, access case manager at Shepherd Center, for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Brain Waves Newsletter
It is normal to have questions about intimacy after a brain injury. You may feel embarrassed to talk about these issues, but know that it is ok for you to talk to a doctor, nurse, therapist, or any other rehabilitation professional about it.
Fifty-eight percent of TBI survivors say that sexuality is just as important to them as before their injury, yet no one discussed this topic with them during their hospital stay. Common issues after TBI include a lack of desire, physical changes in the body, not being able to express one’s needs, and side effects of medications, just to name a few.
Suggestions for Improving Sexuality and Intimacy After TBI:
- Get a Comprehensive Medical Examination: Your doctor can check for medical problems such as hormone imbalances or side effects of medications, which can both affect your desire or ability to be sexually intimate with your partner.
- Seek Treatment: You might consider seeing a sexual therapist with your partner. For a list of certified sexual therapists in your area, ask your healthcare provider or visit this website. If you do not feel like being sexually intimate due to depression or anxiety, you could see a therapist. The free ARConnect hotline can help you find a mental health provider. Call 501-526- 3563.
- Practice communicating your intimacy needs to your partner: Practice smiling, asking your partner to tell you what their intimate needs are, participate in recreational activities you and your partner both enjoy while forming deeper connections.
- Build up your Self Esteem: Remind yourself that you are still the person you used to be, and you deserve affection and intimacy just like every other human. Look in the mirror every day, smile, and say, “I deserve love and affection and I am able to give this back in return to someone else.”
One very important reminder before you have sex is to remember to be safe. If you are a female, talk to your doctor about birth control. Consider using a condom for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Also, you have the right to tell your partner if something they are doing makes you uncomfortable or if you do not want to do something.
For further reading about this topic, click here.
Having a brain injury doesn’t change the fact that you are a human with normal desires to be intimate and feel wanted. Don’t be afraid to talk about all of this with a healthcare provider or a loved one you feel close to.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.