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PTSD & Sexual Dysfunction Could be Linked in Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

PTSD & Sexual Dysfunction Could be Linked in Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse It’s not uncommon for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to have sexual problems as adults. Survivors often cope with sexual pain, diminished sexual interest, orgasm difficulties, and other issues.

Now, researchers think that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might play a role as well.

They worked with 792 Israeli men and women who answered questions about childhood sexual abuse, symptoms of PTSD, sexual problems, and sexual distress.

About 46% of the participants had been sexually abused as children. Compared to those who had not been abused, this group was more likely to have sexual dysfunction and PTSD.

The finding “suggests that the unique features of [childhood sexual abuse] – the betrayal of trust, the shame and horror, and the sexual exploitation at the hand of an adult (often one whom the child depended on) – might lead to long-lasting sexual difficulties regardless of the victim’s sex,” the authors wrote.

How is PTSD linked? It could interfere with a person’s ability to focus on the present moment during sex, the researchers explained. Instead of focusing on “here and now” pleasures, sex might trigger flashbacks of the past trauma. A person with PTSD might also feel threatened by sex. Related fear, tension, and anxiety can lead to sexual distress.

Doctors who work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse should consider screening for PTSD in their patients with sexual problems, the authors said, recommending that treatment approaches focus on both sexual dysfunction and PTSD.

The study was published online in August 2020 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Gewirtz-Meydan, Ateret, PhD and Yael Lahav, PhD

“Sexual Dysfunction and Distress Among Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors: The Role of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”

(Full-text. Published: August 16, 2020)