Critical Review in NeuroRehabilitation Highlights Impact of TBI on Sexuality and Importance of Rehabilitation Strategies
Each year more than three million Americans are living with traumatic brain injury (TBI), a condition that is associated with physical, cognitive, and emotional problems that often affect their sexuality, and subsequently their marital stability, identity, and self-esteem. Taking an in-depth look at the impact of TBI on sexuality, an investigative team critically reviews fourteen studies representing a collective study sample of nearly 1,500 patients, partners, spouses, control individuals, and rehabilitation professionals to examine brain injury and sexuality. It is published in NeuroRehabilitation: An International Journal.
"Sexuality in patients with chronic disease or physical handicaps warrants attention and consideration so that effective intervention plans can be formulated. A healthy sex life may decrease muscular and emotional tension, increase pain threshold, reduce physical stress, improve sleep, and diminish emotional stress within relationships," says Jhon Alexander Moreno, doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada. He has made this important issue the central topic of his research work, which is conducted under the international direction of Professors Michelle McKerral at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation in Montréal, and Juan Carlos Arango Lasprilla from the University of Deusto, Spain, in collaboration with Caron Gan from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Canada. "A lack of information and education on sexuality and disability is a major contributing factor towards the stigma attached to them."
To help clinicians understand the complexity of interactions between psychological factors, physical factors, and relationship factors, investigators have applied a biopsychosocial model in which all three areas intersect to affect sexuality after TBI:
· Neuropsychological and psychological effects — A review of existing literature reveals that cognitive deficits and changes in body image, loss of identity, adjustment, depression, and anxiety can affect an individual's confidence level and ease in forming new relationships.
· Medical and physical issues — Medications prescribed to those with TBI may interfere with sexual function. Drugs such as antihypertensives, antidepressants, stimulants, and anticonvulsants can lower libido and cause erectile, ejaculatory, arousal, or orgasmic problems. Physical changes after TBI can also pose additional limitations in sexual functioning.