There’s a long list of health concerns that our veterans have to contend with after having served our country. Among them, is sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction has a detrimental impact on the relationships a veteran has with their spouse, partners, and themselves, which reverberates into other areas of their lives and can send them spiraling even further into a well of depression. While there are certainly physical injuries that have a direct impact on libido, the intent and purpose of this article is to focus on mental and behavioral health issues that may lead to veteran sexual problems. In addressing these, we want to let our servicepersons (yourself included?) know that they’re not alone, and that there is a way back to a healthy sex life. Please keep reading.
How Mental Health Barriers Lead to Sexual Dysfunction in Veterans and What Can be Done About It
Sexual Dysfunction in Veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Research shows that military veterans have higher rates of behavioral health disorders than civilians. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a primary one, and it has impacted servicepersons from all generations, including those who have recently served. For example, PTSD is evident in 29% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (2003-2011) and Enduring Freedom (2011-2021). Research on sexual dysfunction in combat veterans with PTSD has been done, using the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) as a point of measurement. Results have been quite telling:
“With respect to the individual IIEF domains, patients with PTSD had poorer scores on overall satisfaction and orgasmic function and showed trends toward poorer scores on intercourse satisfaction and erectile function […] The rate of erectile dysfunction was 85% in patients with PTSD and 22% in controls. Moderate to severe erectile dysfunction was present in 45% of the patients with PTSD and in only 13% of controls. Significantly more patients with PTSD (57%) than controls (17%) were using psychotropic medications.”National Library of Medicine
Consequently, efforts to improve the sexual health in veterans suffering from PTSD should consider treatments that are known to be effective. One such treatment, is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Collective studies regarding ACT and U.S. armed forces/military have shown to improve patient outcomes for those suffering from PTSD and other disorders.
Sexual Dysfunction in Veterans with Anxiety and Depression
Veterans also exhibit higher rates of anxiety and depression related to things that they have seen, done, and experienced during their time in service. These conditions also impact sexual performance. On recent study found that someone with depression was 39% more likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) than a person without depression. Another study found that over 63% of ED patients had detectable mental illness, with depression accounting for more than 25% of them.
As a result, efforts to improve the sexual health in veterans suffering from these conditions should consider the following:
Physical Disability Impact on Mental Health
Data finds that 27 percent of all veterans have a service-connected physical disability. Physical disabilities due to time in service can lead to compromised mental health which can subsequently impact sexual health. One study finds that those living with physical disabilities are at least three times more likely to experience depression compared to the general population, while the CDC reports that that mental distress is almost 5 times more likely in those with physical impairments. Given the direct link between depression and sexual dysfunction, injured veterans have yet another concern to contend with. Once again the call to seek depression counseling and therapy gets louder.
Problematic When Paired with Problem Gambling
There is one behavioral health disorder that impacts veterans that many are surprised to learn about – gambling disorder. Studies find that gambling among military is 3.5 times higher than among civilians, and that the rate of problem gambling among military is nearly 69 percent compared with almost 19 percent among civilians.
What does this have to do with veteran sexual problems? There is evidence to show a link between compulsive sports betting and ED, and that gambling disorder is connected to sex drive problems in other significant ways.
We hope that we have provided valuable insight into what may be impacting your sex life as a veteran, or loved one of a veteran. Now is the time to move forward and leave the barriers to a healthy mind, and libido, behind.
Kindbridge Behavioral Health has proven its dedication to supporting veterans through trying times. Together with the Kindbridge Research Institute (KRI) we have initiated a Military Veterans Project in the state of Colorado. The project includes dedicated programs that provide active military personnel and veterans with access to important mental health care services and support groups. We also offer affordable online counseling and therapy services to veterans across all 50 U.S. states.
Important: If you are not a resident of Colorado and financial constraints prevent you from seeking help for service-related sexual dysfunction, you may be able to seek coverage through the VA. Veterans may qualify for VA disability erectile dysfunction benefits, if they can demonstrate that i) they have been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, ii) an incident or injury occurred during service, and iii) there is a medical nexus (connection) between ED and the in-service incident or injury.
Break the Mental Health Barriers to Sexual Health
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