How can brain injury affect a person's sexuality?
[Glenn Parkinson] People very often times experience issues related to sexuality after any kind of injury.
People become more focused on their physical body,
and sexuality clearly is one of the—it's something that's very physical
that sometimes people aren't as in touch with.
And so when you have an injury to your physical body, you become much more aware
of the different physical functions of your body.
For someone with brain injury, depending on the nature of their injury,
they could be motoric in terms of their motor functioning,
their ability to speak, which is both a cognitive as well as a physical function
depending upon what kind of injury they sustain.
So people become, I think, much more attuned to ways in which
their bodies work in general.
When someone has a traumatic brain injury, there's a whole variety of things
that can impact them in terms of their sexual self.
If they have an injury which impacts some of their executive functioning—
a frontal lobe injury—that can have a huge impact on issues related to judgment—
risk-taking behavior, disinhibition—all those kinds of things which can come out
in sexual behavior as well as other ways.
People also can have other mood-related symptoms—
depression, anxiety—which can impact the way that someone feels
about themselves sexually, their ability to relate to other people,
which of course is part of a sexual relationship,
and often times also people are on medications which impact either their ability
to perform sexually or their libido, which is just a fancy word for desire—
someone's interest in sex.
It really runs the gamut, and traumatic brain injury, unlike other physical injuries,
is interesting because it has the component—
often times people have the experience of hyper-sexuality.
They become more sexual—more sexually aroused.
They have more sexual behaviors.
It's more common with other sorts of injuries that people
more of a depressive effect on either their libido or their ability to interact sexually.
Traumatic brain injury, unlike others, it really does run the gamut in terms of
increasing sex drive, increasing sexual-seeking behavior
as well as avoidance of that.
Show transcript | Print transcript
Click here to see other video Q&As with Glenn Parkinson.
Click here to return to our BrainLine Military Ask the Expert feature.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.
Glenn W. Parkinson, MSW, MA, Glenn Parkinson, MSW, MA works as the psychotherapist on the Traumatic Brain Injury service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. She works with active duty and retired military personnel and their families specializing in combat-related injuries.
The contents of BrainLine Military (the “Web Site”), such as text, graphics, images, information obtained from the Web Site’s licensors and/or consultants, and other material contained on the Web Site (collectively, the “Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for medical, legal, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Specifically, with regards to medical issues, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Web Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. The Web Site does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Web Site. Reliance on any information provided by the Web Site or by employees, volunteers or contractors or others associated with the Web Site and/or other visitors to the Web Site is solely at your own risk.