Welcome to the Healthy Sex blog. Here we share the latest news and information about Wendy’s media interviews, presentations, and publications. You can find blog posts listed according to topic categories such as Sex & Love, Sex Abuse Healing, Sexual Fantasy, Porn Recovery, Reflections on Sex, and more – as well as by the date posted.
Reflections on Sex (RoS) posts
“Reflections on Sex” is a special category of blog posts featured in the Healthy Sex blog. It is sometimes referred to using the abbreviation, RoS. These blog posts serve as a running column, like a newspaper column. In these writings, Wendy shares the most fascinating ideas and insights she gained about sex in her more than forty years of work as a sex educator and therapist. New “Reflections on Sex” blog posts are published about one a month and are highlighted on this page. To find out as soon as one is posted follow Wendy Maltz on Twitter or Facebook for announcements.
By Wendy Maltz LCSW, DST (first appeared in Bottom Line Health, Dec. 2011)
Sexual abuse—be it recent or years ago—is often linked to mental health problems such
as depression and anxiety in the estimated one in four women and one in six men who have been sexually assaulted before the age of 18.
Now:A growing body of evidence now links a history of molestation and/or rape to a wide variety of physicalailments.
Problem:Sexual abuse survivors—and their doctors—often don’t realize that their medical problems may stem from the abuse. What’s more, many people who were sexually abused are reluctant to mention it to their doctors because they feel shame and anxiety about what happened to them.
SEXUAL ABUSE And POOR HEALTH
Sexual abuse and other traumatic experiences have been shown to cause abnormal /unstable levels of the primary stress hormone cortisol, which can persist for years. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to inflammation, a contributing factor in major illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even heart disease. Sexual abuse has been identified as a risk factor in asthma, hypertension, unwanted pregnancy, panic attacks, low thyroid, eating disorders, sleep disturbances, breast cancer, herpes, urinary tract infections, self-injury and more. Also, sexual abuse survivors have higher than average rates of drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and risky sexual behavior—all of which can lead to lead a variety of health problems.
Other common physical health effects of sexual abuse…
Obesity.Interpersonal violence in childhood, including sexual abuse, has been found to be a risk factor in adult obesity. Unpleasant emotions, chronic stress, and disordered eating are thought to be involved. Survivors of sexual abuse may also overeat and become overweight as a form of self-soothing and/or a way of discouraging sexual advances.
Headaches.Even years after sexual abuse, survivors may frequently recall the abuse, fear revealing the abuse secret, have nightmares, and suffer sexual anxieties—all of which fuel muscular tension and emotional stress that encourage chronic headaches and migraines.
In a 2007 study of 161 patients with serious headache problems, a whopping 40% of those who suffered from chronic daily headaches also had a history of sexual and/or physical abuse.
Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. In clinical settings, women and men who were sexually abused as children are more likely to report GI problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea, than patients who were not abused. Some studies have found that as many as half of sexually abused women suffer from some type of GI symptom.
In addition, survivors of sexual abuse with GI problems report more medical symptoms, greater general pain, more lifetime surgeries and significantly higher amounts of disability due to the illness than non-sexually abused peers.
Fibromyalgia.Increasing evidence indicates that women who have been sexually abused are more likely to develop fibromyalgia, a syndrome characterized by chronic widespread pain, multiple “tender points” on various parts of the body, fatigue and sleep disturbances. (Fibromyalgia in men who have been sexually abused has not been widely studied.) On-going stress and depression related to abuse might be impairing sensory processing in the central nervous system, causing pain.
Chronic pelvic pain.Women who have been sexually abused tend to experience more chronic pelvic pain—50% by some estimates— including painful intercourse. One source of pelvic pain is vaginismus, a reflexive tightening of the vaginal muscles that can occur—even in loving sexual relationships—as women unconsciously seek to avoid further trauma or pain. Overtime, chronically tight vaginal muscles can shrink and atrophy, causing even more sexual difficulties. Male survivors have reported problems with recurrent rectal pain.
What survivors must do to help protect their health…
Don’t ignore your history.If you are a sexual abuse survivor who is concerned about or experiencing mental health problems, sexual problems, and/or unexplained physical ailments, seek professional help from a psychologist, counselor or certified sex therapist trained in sexual abuse treatment.
Classic sexual abuse recovery books, such as The Courage to Heal, Victims No Longer and The Sexual Healing Journey, offer effective healing strategies for both women and men. Also, investigate sexual abuse survivors’ groups and on-line resources such as Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (www.ascaSupport.org), Survivors of Incest Anonymous (www.siawso.org), and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (www.rainn.org).
Speak to your doctor.Talk candidly with your physician so that he/she can factor your sexual abuse history into preventive care and the diagnosis of any health problems. Informed health care workers can make a special effort to help you feel safe during invasive exams and procedures, such as Pap smears for women and prostate exams for men.
Be sure to adopt a healthy lifestyle.Develop daily health habits that keep you strong, reduce your stress levels, and decrease your risk for health problems. These include following a healthful diet… getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night…exercising three to five times a week…and learning body- and brain-calming techniques, such as yoga, tai chi and meditation. Physical therapy can be beneficial for treating pelvic pain disorders.
Pay attention to your sexual health.Sexual abuse is not only an attack on one’s body, but also an attack on one’s sexuality. It can establish negative sexual attitudes and behaviors that impair healthy intimacy and long-term sexual pleasure, such as approaching sex as an obligation, not feeling present during sex, and engaging in out-of-control, harmful and compulsive sex. You may need to “relearn”—or even learn for the first time—that sex can be an expression of mutual respect and caring in a loving relationship. Healing your sexuality allows you to tackle the root cause of trauma-related medical conditions, thus improving your mental health, as well as your physical well-being.
[Note: Article references are available upon request]
If you are a counselor, therapist, or psychologist you can now earn 4 Continuing Education credits for reading our book, “The Porn Trap” and answering on-line test questions with Professional Development Resources. The book can help you recognize problems caused by porn, such as porn addiction and relationship distress, and it provides treatment strategies and techniques for quitting porn, helping couples heal, preventing and coping with relapses, and approaching touch and sex in ways that strengthen self-esteem and intimacy. It’s a win-win situation.
CLICK HERE to find out more.
You can now watch short video clips from Wendy Maltz’s two highly acclaimed couples sexual healing and intimacy videos, “Relearning Touch” and “Partners in Healing.” These videos are designed to help couples heal from the sexual repercussions of past sexual abuse and also develop skills for comfort with touch and improved sexual intimacy. Produced and moderated by Wendy Maltz, they feature real couples talking about their healing process.
Now available! You can now listen to the information-packed one-hour interview Wendy provided for the Sirius Channel’s Sexual Health and Well-Being Doctor Radio show in July 2010. Here Wendy discusses porn addiction, relationship problems, and other harmful intimate effects of heavy porn use with host, Dr. Virginia Sadock. Suggestions for relationship and sexual healing are discussed, as well as questions answered from people who called in their stories to the show.
(Note: This recording features a 5 minute period of silence at the half hour which you can fast forward through to get to the second half of the show)
Why is today’s porn so compelling? What makes it “the Great Sex Spoiler”? How can recovering porn addicts approach sex in new ways that support sexual health and intimate relationships? For answers to these questions and more you are invited to listen to an interview discussion Wendy Maltz LCSW, DST recently had with Joe Ryan of the Freedom from Porn Addiction web site.
Dr. Anne Hallward of Safe Space Radio recently spoke with Wendy Maltz LCSW, DST about the impact of sexual abuse on sexuality, and ways to reclaim pleasure, safety and intimacy. In this 30 minute interview, “Sexual Healing after Sexual Abuse,” Wendy describes techniques for relearning touch that involve staying with and speaking for your inner experience. She reports that taking a vacation from sex is sometimes necessary, because when sex feels like an obligation, it can often trigger difficulties from the abuse. Wendy shares a bit of her own healing history, discusses the impact of sexual abuse on intimate partners, and describes ways that couples can take on the challenge of healing together.
A recent article in Newsweek Online by Kate Dailey discusses how the Transportation and Safety Administration’s new body scans and pat downs can create problems for survivors of sexual abuse. In the article Wendy Maltz, author of The Sexual Healing Journey, shares how in addition to the risk of flashbacks and panic attacks to unwanted touch, the procedures take place under time pressures and social constraints that make it difficult to engage healing and stress-coping techniques.
Wendy Maltz LCSW, DST was the featured guest Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 on the HealthyPlace TV Show, the online mental health TV show that airs over the HealthyPlace.com website. The program focused on how experiences such as incest, rape and molestation can harm a person’s sexuality. Wendy describes common sexual repercussions of sexual abuse such as avoiding or being afraid of sex, having trouble being emotionally present in sex, engaging in compulsive or inappropriate sex, experiencing negative reactions to touch, having unwanted sexual fantasies, and being troubled with sexual functioning difficulties. Wendy also talks about sexual healing as a dynamic process survivors can employ to reclaim a positive sense of what sex is and develop new skills for experiencing touch and sex in positive, life-affirming ways.
HealthyPlace.com is the largest consumer mental health site, providing comprehensive, trusted information on psychological disorders and psychiatric medications from both a consumer and expert point of view. The show is available on-demand through their permalinks and will play continuously on their site, for one week beginning April 28th, 2010.
The highly popular AlterNet.org website is currently featuring a long and meaty excerpt taken from Wendy’s book, Private Thoughts: Exploring the Power of Women’s Sexual Fantasies (coauthored with Suzie Boss) on their “Sex and Relationships” page. The excerpt describes, and illustrates with examples, nine positive functions of sexual fantasies: enhancing self-esteem and attractivenessincreasing sexual interest and desirefacilitating orgasmcelebrating the presentsatisfying curiosityrehearsing future possibilitiesrelieving stress and tensionpreserving a pleasant memorycoping with past hurts To read the article, go to: http://www.alternet.org/sex/146452/9_reasons_sex_fantasies_are_good_for_you or CLICK HERE