Thursday, October 29, 2009

Q & A: "I am in therapy for being molested as a child"

Q. I am in therapy for being molested as a child. One of the
manifestations of this incident is that I have no physical
sensations on my breasts and other normally erogenous zones. My
question: Is there any physiological explanation for this
occurrence? Is there a condition that could cause this without
connection to the abuse? My therapist would like to rule out this
possibility. Thanks.

A. Being sexually molested as a child can have a number of
painful consequences. The frequency with which men, and
to a lesser extent women, sexually abuse children is appalling.
Cutting across all socioeconomic barriers, sexual abuse is one of
the most damaging of all experiences to the psyche. It may leave
scars for life.

One of the consequences of prior sexual abuse is to experience
periods of dissociation from one's actual experience. So, for
example, a woman who has been sexually abused as a child may be
unable to stay in the present moment while making love to her
husband. Her mind may go elsewhere. Psychologically, we can
imagine that she is having difficulty integrating her current
sexual experience (with someone she loves and desires) with
painful memories of sexual abuse by another man. The mind is more
likely to simply escape, to dissociate from the present
experience.

The consequences can be a lack of intimacy or fulfillment in sex,
or maybe a lack of libido. This is a sort of mental anesthesia: a
protective numbing and forgetting of past experiences. The
physical body's sexual responsiveness, being so intimately
related to our thoughts and state of mind, may follow suit and
become numb.

I am not aware of any medical or neurological entities that
could, by themselves, explain a lack of sensation in erogenous
areas of the body.

-- R. Jandl

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