Question

Sexual Abuse

How can a history of childhood sexual abuse affect an adult's sex life?

A Answers (2)

  • AHoward Fradkin, PhD, Psychology, answered

    Unfortunately, survivors of childhood sexual abuse face a multitude of problems in adulthood, when their trauma is untreated. With treatment, and by reaching out for support from other survivors and professionals, many of these problems can be alleviated. The primary problems for adult survivors include: Depression and suicidality, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, alcoholism and chemical dependency, sex addiction, marked impairments in the ability to form intimate relationships, sexual performance issues, sexual orientation confusion, inadequacy as a man or woman, difficulties with trust, especially those in authority, difficulties functioning in a work environment, or conversely, addiction to work and super performing in a work environment, and impaired self-esteem. Other survivors suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder, problems with dissociation, including dissociative identity disorder. Many survivors go to therapy for the above issues, without even knowing of their history of abuse. With a trained therapist, oftentimes the dots can be connected; when they are connected, a survivor can begin to heal his or her shame, and all the accompanying problems.

  • AJan Shifren, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, answered
    Experiences of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault often affect a person's attitudes and feelings about sex. For instance, a history of chronic pelvic pain -- an obvious barrier to satisfying sex -- has been linked at times to a history of sexual abuse in women. What may be surprising, yet not uncommon, is when a person suddenly develops sexual difficulties after previously appearing to enjoy a good sexual relationship with his or her partner. In some cases, problems crop up after the relationship undergoes a major change. After a couple makes a formal commitment to each other, for example, a woman with a history of sexual abuse may now feel that she is part of a family, with its concomitant obligations and expectations. If a family member abused her, she may now recall those experiences and be reluctant to have sex.
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