Sexual behavior and sexual activity

It is common for people with brain injuries to have a change in sexual behavior or sexual activity.

There are two common types of changes: hyposexuality and hypersexuality.

Hyposexuality

Your loved one may lose interest in sex, feel depressed or have emotional lability (crying or getting upset more easily or at the wrong times). This may be the result of sexual dysfunction or physical changes caused by the brain injury.

The most common types of sexual dysfunction are:

  • lack of arousal and orgasm
  • erectile dysfunction (ED or impotence). This is the inability to get or keep an erection long enough for sexual intercourse.

Fear about physical changes may keep your loved one from being intimate. He or she may feel anxious about:

  • how he or she looks
  • changes in his or her relationship
  • rejection

It is important for you to know how to deal with hyposexuality.

  • Talk openly with your loved one's health care provider about your loved one's hyposexuality. Talk about any questions or concerns you have.
  • If your loved one is also your sexual partner, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed family or marriage counselor about any concerns you may have.

Hypersexuality

Your loved one may have increased sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors.

Hypersexuality may cause inappropriate sexual behavior such as:

  • talking explicitly about sex
  • making offensive or bad sexual comments or gestures
  • touching others

It is important for you to know how to deal with inappropriate sexual behavior.

  • Talk with your loved one's health care team about what to do if there are inappropriate sexual behaviors. Common questions include:
    • What do I do if he or she touches someone inappropriately?
    • How should I react if he or she starts talking sexually?
      Talk openly with your loved one's health care provider about any other questions or concerns you have.
  • Talk with your loved one's care circle about what kinds of sexual behavior are appropriate and what are not.
  • If your loved one is also your sexual partner, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed family or marriage counselor about any concerns you may have.
  • Talk with your loved one's health care provider about the risks of sexually transmitted infections.

Source: Allina Health Patient EducationUnderstanding Stroke, fifth edition, neuro-ahc-90662
Reviewed By: Allina Health Patient Education experts
First Published: 02/01/2006
Last Reviewed: 05/01/2018

Important

Talk honestly with your loved one's health care provider about your questions or concerns.

If the health care provider does not know there is a problem, he or she cannot help.