Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tips for reclaiming sexuality after a health event

Many readers have reported concerns about how to reclaim their sexuality after a heart attack, cancer, or other health event. I asked licensed psychologist and sex therapist Stephanie Buehler, Psy.D., to provide some tips for the new book I'm writing. Her information was so valuable that I didn't want you to have to wait for the book:

1. Speak to your physician about when you can resume sex and what kinds of limitations you might expect or need to work around. If you are uncomfortable talking about it with the physician, perhaps you can bring it up to the nurse. Nurses are often interested in helping patients achieve an optimal quality of life, and are trained to educate patients as well.

2. If neither your physician nor the nurse is sexually savvy, then contact whatever organization is associated with your disease. For example, both the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society publish booklets on sexuality and illness.

3. Broaden your ideas about what constitutes “sex” after an illness event. Sex is more than intercourse. Count holding hands and cuddling as sex, and you and your partner might feel less disappointed or glum.

4. If you are the person affected with a health problem, don’t conclude that if your partner isn’t bringing up sex, it is no longer important. Your partner may not want to intrude or make demands and is waiting for a sign of readiness from you.

5. If you are the partner of the person with a health problem, accompany your partner to a physician’s visit to discuss sexual effects of any surgery or treatment. Educate yourself so that you can be a support to your partner, and so that you and your partner can discuss how to go forward.

6. If you had sexual problems before the illness event, now might be a good opportunity to address them. It may be that your health problem contributed to your sexual problem. Again, discuss this with your physician or nurse.

7. If you are having trouble resuming satisfying sexual activity, consider seeing a sex therapist. A sex therapist can help you identify obstacles and give you information and suggestions. Sometimes there can be deeper problems, like facing the fact that you are not invincible, that can also be addressed with a therapist.

Stephanie Buehler, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist and sex therapist, and Director of The Buehler Institute in Irvine, California. Visit her blog about sex and intimacy.

Note: You can locate a sex therapist in your area through AASECT, American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors & Therapists.)

2 comments:

  1. Due to my health, I have to be on oxygen. My wife says it doesn't bother her when we're trying to have sex, but I'm not sure if it does or not. We're both in our seventy's and enjoy oral sex.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous, I'll bet your wife is grateful that the two of you can stay sexually active despite the health challenges. Believe her! Thank you for writing. -- Joan

    ReplyDelete

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