The Impact of PTSD on Your Sex Drive

March 21, 2018 Tia Hollowood

How can PTSD impact your sex drive in long-term relationships? Read on at HealthyPlace for suggestions on how to discuss PTSD and your sex drive with your partner. Although PTSD impacts sex drive, it doesn't have to destroy your relationship.

One of the things I find most frustrating about living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the impact PTSD has on my sex drive. I am a private person, and sex is a decidedly personal issue for many people, so I've put this topic off many times. However, the problems that PTSD can bring to partners don't go away on their own, so let's explore the potential difficulties that PTSD symptoms can bring to a sexual relationship.

Why Does PTSD Impact Sex Drive?

Even within loving, successful, long-term relationships, individuals with PTSD can experience significant fluctuations in their sex drive. I am not referring to a physical inability to perform sexually, but a cognitive barrier to engaging in sex. As an example, I go through cycles, from what I consider a healthy, average sex drive, to complete avoidance of any intimate contact. I’m not alone in this.

Studies show that regardless of the type of trauma experienced, individuals with PTSD are three times as likely to suffer similar sexual dysfunction. According to researchers, one of the essential reasons for this is that PTSD symptoms can be in direct conflict with pleasure, intimacy, trust, and feelings of safety. The same arousal that occurs with sexual activity can also heighten involuntary reactions such as fear, self-loathing, or disgust. These reactions can manifest at any time. In other words, PTSD affects sex drive for many reasons.

Dealing with PTSD and Your Sex Drive's Changing Levels

As with many of the symptoms and complications of PTSD, understanding how PTSD can disrupt sexual activity is a big step towards coping with it. In the midst of a romantic moment, a hidden trigger or unwelcome thought can cause an individual with PTSD to feel threatened or out of control. These feelings can initiate a flight response, dissociation, or any number of PTSD symptoms.

When triggered, a person with PTSD might shut down and reject a partner without being able to explain why. Perhaps even worse, feelings of shame, fear of angering or of disappointing a partner, or insecurity can make one anxious and frightened for the stability of a relationship. In this situation, a triggered person may force themselves to continue with sexual activity even when they are finding it uncomfortable or unwelcome.

When to Talk about PTSD and Your Sex Drive

So when is it the right time to mention the sexual difficulties that accompany your PTSD? In the following video, I discuss the importance of speaking with a partner before problematic situations arise, how to repair the damage when a trigger catches you off-guard, and some added benefits to being open and honest with a partner about barriers to sexual interactions caused by PTSD.

Talking About PTSD and Sex Drive Can Strengthen Relationships

By discussing with a partner how PTSD can flatline sexual desire on an involuntary, unpredictable basis, we open the door to understanding. We also increase the probability of more consistent sexual arousal over time. An individual with PTSD can let go of apprehension over deflecting a partner's affection and stop making excuses to avoid intimacy, leading to more relaxed and natural interactions.

If you struggle with PTSD and sex drive, you deserve a partner who can love and understand this difficulty for what it is, and who is willing to help you heal through this complicated issue.

APA Reference
Hollowood, T. (2018, March 21). The Impact of PTSD on Your Sex Drive, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

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Robynn Hood
October, 25 2022 at 8:12 am

For me everything works but when i climax i feel nothing the intence pleasure is gone!

February, 19 2022 at 12:13 pm

Since I can remember my moms bf was molesting me and it stopped when she left him for the second time after discovering he picked up where he left off after she left him the first time. Altogether, from my memory it has been for about 5 years. I struggled in relationships with certain things sexually. I got over a lot of barriers and felt as if I’ve made a ton of progress. I’m currently in a relationship and pregnant with my second baby (a girl) with the same man and while in this relationship I’ve thought to myself that I should have left him in the beginning because when we were just a couple of months in, there was a time we were being intimate and I told him I wanted to stop, he told me “let me finish” and since then, I have not been able to trust him. After I gave birth to my son I had almost no sex drive and avoided sex with him almost entirely. We go months without it and he wants more but lately I’ve been crying in the middle of it or making him stop because I get triggered. I feel most vulnerable at night and for awhile he didn’t understand that he couldn’t just “turn me on” while I was about to fall asleep or in the middle of sleeping because I freaked out. He told me that he was going to sleep on the couch because he wanted to control himself and that angered me because he should be able to respect my body and lay in the same bed. He’s stopped doing that and I feel safer sleeping next to him than I did before. Now that I’m soon to be a mother of a daughter of my own I’m beginning to feel like my trust will drop completely because I have so many bad thoughts and don’t want him to be alone with her because if my mom couldn’t/didn’t protect me, I think about all the ways to protect her.

September, 5 2020 at 3:34 am

i have been dealing with the beast since 06. havent given enough of a crap to do a thing till now. i realized i have a girlfriend i am very much in love with, but i havent been able to meet my needs in the fight against panic and insomnia. they exhaust any resources ive tried to reserve for sex. i hate to even mention but the idea can be terrifying to me. i just want to hide from my lover, because talking can only hurt. i dont know what a guy is supposed to do? but i know if this keeps up i will be dealing with this issue alone. that would be tantamount to suicide right now. I honestly cant say that would be a bad idea. last time id have to explain this completely embarrassing failure as a human. i am in counseling currently, but am very frustrated with my lack of progress. the mental health system seems (while better then nothing) ill equipped to handle issues like this medicinally or holistically. im still going to give it my best, but my best sucks.

June, 17 2020 at 4:07 am

I am 35 years old and i have suffered sexual,emotional, and physical abuse. I am just now going thru treatment and diagnosis for ptsd. I can get turned on and have the feelings of intimacy but can never achieve orgasm. Its like im going thru the motions but dont get pleasure out of it. I have a lot of feelings of inadequacy and fear of disappointment and i think thats a huge part of my problem. I am praying for a solution to help me soon! Hang in there everyone.

August, 29 2019 at 10:02 am

i was involved in a inicident in 2016..sept 11 no less.
it took me about 9 months to realise that something was very very wrong with me. I turned into someone who could easily go with people who werent my wife of 11years.
it is now 2019,august..nearly september,and it has taken me 3 years to acknoweldge how this has effected my sex drive,sex life and how i show my intamacy to my wife. in short we both closed of from each other and came alarmingly close to loosing each other. there is still precious little help for anyone with PTSD. at times following my attack i have felt utterly black inside and out and a complete failure..i also feel like i have a whole other side to me that sometimes no matter how i try comes out. and i dont like that person as he does all the things that are not me without a concsiounce for right and wrong.

November, 29 2019 at 11:30 am

I been struggling with sever PTSD and low sex drive for almost 20 years .I work accident .... I received 160.000.00 volts of electricity .... I was 21 ,42 now .I recently been microdosing psylocybin for PTSD and it helps. Your mood ,your energy levels and feeling present is very much alive when you microdose ,it allows us to be ourselves ,it leads to better sex life . Google it .Hope this helps.

September, 5 2020 at 3:26 am

me too buddy. me too. its like there is a monster in me and at any moment he will steal all of the things ive been working for

June, 23 2019 at 4:22 pm

I don't really know where else to turn to be honest.
I have been with my now fiance for 8 years and I knew he lost his dad when he was 13 and it was very sudden...
He never dealt with the loss, he would tell me he was going to councelling and never did... I caught him lieing about it so many times .
We have struggled with our sex life for around 7 of those years now and I am 28 and want to start a family...
I love him very much and will listen and do what ever I need to do to support him.
However when do I think about my life and what I need from this... A family.
How long do I ignore my feelings, because this won't be a quick fix at all.
We have sex about once a month if that... And I know this sounds selfish and I know he's going through a really tough time and he's only just been diagnosed with PTSD.

June, 26 2019 at 9:47 am

Hi Sophie, supporting people you care about with PTSD can be tough, especially in a relationship. I'm still figuring out some of those issues myself! There are several books out there on how to support partners with PTSD that I've found helpful to read. A therapist might also be able to help you navigate some of your concerns, even if your partner isn't quite ready to pursue counseling himself yet. You're already off to a good start if you're researching PTSD and how it can impact relationships!

January, 1 2021 at 5:56 pm

Hi, just seen your post and something made me feel compelled to message you. May I ask how things are for you and your partner now?
I can relate to this and also feel very lost and lonely.

December, 27 2018 at 4:56 am

I am a 57 year old man and after years of suffering severe dissociation (unreality) and lack of capacity to feel emotion (pleasure) I have recently been diagnosed with PTSD. After several sessions with a psychologist it became apparent that I was sexually abused when I was 11 and also by a psychiatrist years later. During discussion of the incidents with my psychologist I became very strongly sexually aroused - it is fair to say that for the first time in 40 years I was able to feel intense pleasure. This was both embarassing and disconcerting to me and I am having trouble understanding/reconciling how recounting past sexual a buse can evoke such powerful pleasurable sensations of a sexual nature in me. Is this a normal PTSD response?

M. Pence
December, 10 2018 at 5:42 am

I'm just now coming to terms that I have PTSD, and seeing how much my wife is suffering from my problem. My wife is beautiful and I have always enjoyed sex with her but as of late and actually being diagnosed with PTSD I hope I can regain our sexual relationship. But this article has help me to express to her what's going on and how PTSD has changed my sexual life

Tia Hollowood
October, 30 2018 at 10:18 am

Thank you for sharing. I understand how you feel. I have been there so many times myself. In fact when I wrote this piece, I asked my husband to proofread it, to make sure he read it. It is difficult for sure, but you need a partner who can understand what’s happening.

Hungry for affection
October, 29 2018 at 11:16 pm

I'm sitting here crying reading this because I'm 42 and I've never been able to enjoy sex because of C-PTSD. Whenever I feel ready the feeling just drains out of my body and then I can feel nothing. I'm still not really sure how to fix this, but I appreciate the article anyway as it validates something that's been happening my whole life that people think I'm crazy for. What a horrid, horrible invisible prison this is.

Mira Cassidy
April, 9 2018 at 4:46 pm

I think this is a very important article because being aware of how you are affected sexually is an important part of the healing process and feeling whole again.

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