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Resources for Recovery: Physical Injury and Intimacy (For Patients)

The injuries of war are life-changing events for service members and their families. One important area of change frequently not discussed is how physical injuries affect emotional and sexual relationships. For service members who are single, the impact of injury on sexual performance is also an important issue that is part of one’s recovery and likely to become more critical over time.

Physical war injuries include mild to severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal cord injuries leading to different levels of paralysis, amputations, burns, disfigurement and others injuries with potentially lasting effects. Emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), misuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, even violent behavior can also accompany physical injury. Each and/or any of these conditions occurring together compromise intimacy — the ability to engage in and derive pleasure from emotional closeness and sexual activities.