Sexual Dysfunction: Introduction

Although we live in a society where people freely discuss toilet paper, hemorrhoids, and all sorts of quite personal issues, without bashfulness or hesitation, the problem of sexual dysfunction following lightning strike, electric shock, or traumatic brain injury is so "hush hush" that not even the treating physicians inquire about possible sexual dysfunction in their usual history-taking from the patient. It is well known and well recognized, in all of the literature and research, that sexual dysfunction can be the result of chronic pain, medications, injury to the brain, psychological injury, depression, and a whole host of common problems that those surviving electric shock, lightning strike, or traumatic brain injury may have, yet it seems to be a well-kept secret and people are left to deal with problems related to sexual dysfunction on their own.

In a society where sexuality seems so important in our humor, television commercials, politics, and sometimes the very core of our culture, it is a shame that people are left to suffer on their own, without knowing why, and without knowing that there may be some kind of care, treatment, or therapy that could be of help. This article is an attempt to pull back the curtain of darkness in an effort to give comfort to those in that it is not "their fault," and maybe to educate so that people can get real and available help.

Let me be clear that it was not my idea to write an article about sexual dysfunction following injury. I must confess that when I was first asked to write an article about sexual dysfunction following injury, my first thought was "whoa, sex is a very sensitive subject," and then I thought, "whoa, whoa, talking about sex is a very, very sensitive subject," and then I thought "whoa, whoa, whoa, writing about sexual dysfunction is going to be a really sensitive subject and there is no way that I am going to do that."

As I thought about responding to the request to write this article about sexual dysfunction following injury, I realized that in my over 25 years of representing persons and families surviving various types of injury, including traumatic brain injury, lightning strike, or electric shock injury, that one of the very real consequences of those injuries, directly or indirectly, has been sexual dysfunction. But I still thought, no way am I going to write about this, and there is no way that I want to be introduced at seminars, or be known, as an expert in sexual dysfunction.

Suffice it to say that those who know me best would not consider me as the poster child for openness in discussion of sexual issues. Then, I thought it was perhaps the type of attitude that I had in terms of reluctance to discuss sexual issues or sexual dysfunction issues, that formed part of the weave of the cloak of darkness and silence that surrounds the very real issue and problem of sexual dysfunction following injury.

It just so happened that right about this time, I came across a booklet put out by Pfizer, Inc., U.S. Pharmaceuticals entitled "Putting Sexual Health Into Practice", that was published in August, 1999 for physicians. As I read through the booklet, I began to think that maybe an article of this type could be help to some people.

At page one of the booklet, under the heading of "Breaking the Silence Around Sexual Health", it says:

Having a healthy sex life is one factor that may contribute directly to the quality and longevity of an individual's life, according to the Duke First Longitudinal Study of Aging. In a World Health Organization (WHO) Report, sexual health is defined as the integration of the somatic, emotional, intellectual, and social aspects of sexual being, in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication, and love. The international group of experts convened by WHO take the position that the notion of sexual health implies a positive approach to human sexuality, and the purpose of sexual healthcare should be the enhancement of life and personal relationships and not merely counseling and care related to procreation or sexually transmitted diseases. But sexual health, primarily in men, is frequently overlooked as an integral part of overall health. ? For various reasons, millions of men are not discussing the sexual health problems with their physicians. By keeping these issues to themselves, they suffer silently.

In a survey of 500 adults, 94 percent of those polled said that sexual satisfaction added to the quality of life at any age. Marianne J. Legato, M.D., commented, "As human beings our sexuality is inextricably linked to our overall health, happiness, and sense of wellness." Furthermore, the American Medical Association lists "participating in desired sexual activity" as one of many important activities of daily living."

At page three of this booklet and remembering that it is a booklet written for doctors, it says:

One of the most rewarding aspects of treating sexual health is that you can impact two lives. Often, a sexual problem can make partners feel that they are no longer attractive or that the problem is a reflection on them.

The fact is that the world health organization and the American Medical Association consider sexual function to be in the category of an important daily activity. There are many studies that relate a number of health benefits to a healthy sexual life. There may be millions of people in the United States and around the world who are suffering from some aspect of sexual dysfunction as a result of injury and maybe at least one of those people could benefit from receiving at least the knowledge that they are not alone.

For those persons who may be shy, reserved, or reluctant to bring up sexual issues with their doctor, at the end of this article is a form that can be filled out in advance of the doctor's appointment, and simply handed to the doctor to sort of help break the ice about any discussions with regard to sexual issues.

This has been the most difficult article that I have ever written, and I have tried to be as careful as I could so as not to offend anyone. While some aspects of this article may focus on male issues, that is simply because much of the available literature and research deals with male sexual dysfunction as opposed to female. Every word in this article is intended to help women as much as men.


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