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Life After Brain Injury

Intimacy and Sexuality

Love, affection, and sexual feelings are healthy human desires. If these desires aren’t understood or expressed, it’s normal to feel confused or uncertain. Sexuality is how males and females express their identities through sexual actions, attitudes, and behaviour in relationships. From childhood on, we become aware of sexual differences. We are taught both directly and indirectly how to behave with the opposite sex.

Most people have trouble talking about sex. The person closest to the person with the injury is usually best one to help him re-learn how to express sexual feelings properly. This is when you may want support and ideas to help address sexual issues.

The goals of rehabilitation include helping the person be as independent as the brain injury allows, and to have healthy personal relationships. Being able to develop and maintain social relationships may be the most important measure of a successful rehabilitation. Therefore, recognizing and talking about concerns about love and sex are important.

Acceptance and trust are very important for intimacy and in a sexual relationship. If his personality has changed, you may have to get to know him again. As well, if there are also physical changes, both of you will have to adjust to these changes.

Sometimes a brain injury causes the person to forget how to properly express these learned behaviours. For example, the adult with a brain injury may not understand when it’s the right time to kiss, hug, or touch you or other people.

A person with brain injury may not be able to recognize sexual cues anymore. He may lose interest in sex, be less able to fantasize, or lose the ability to be sensitive to his partner’s needs. It’s unusual for there to be a physical reason for sexual problems after a brain injury (such as not being able to have or keep an erection or to have an orgasm).

If the person with the injury is now more dependent, his partner may have to take the lead in the sexual relationship. It’s okay to give the person with the brain injury directions and cues.

Touching, caressing, cuddling, and resting together can help you feel close. Hospitals don’t give you much privacy, but you can ask for private time in the hospital room or ask for a day or weekend pass.

Talk about your feelings with a member of the rehabilitation team or someone you trust. Although you may not feel comfortable talking about sexual matters, the rehabilitation team members are used to dealing with these issues and understand your feelings.

Social workers, rehabilitation nurses, and rehabilitation psychologists can also support you.

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