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From hurt to heartfelt: Rebuild intimacy after interpersonal trauma

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Interpersonal trauma can have a significant impact on intimacy, as it can affect a person's ability to trust others, feel safe, and connect emotionally and physically with their partner/s. The effects can manifest in different ways, depending on the individual and the type of trauma they experienced, but some common ways interpersonal trauma can affect intimacy include:


1. Difficulty trusting: A person who has been mistreated or experienced abuse may struggle with building trust towards others, as well as feeling able to trust themselves.


2. Emotional detachment: traumatic experiences may cause a person to unknowingly or purposefully seek out mechanisms that help them to disconnect from their emotions, as a way of coping through their experiences. This can create complex emotional and psychological barriers to connecting with their partner/s.


3. Hyperarousal or hypervigilance: survivors of traumatic experiences, violence or abuse can often feel constantly on edge, which can make it difficult for them to relax and feel comfortable during intimate moments with their partner/s.


4. Negative self-image: a person who has suffered mistreatment or abuse may feel shame or guilt about their experiences, which can affect their self-esteem and make them feel unworthy of love or affection.


5. Sexual difficulties: various types of trauma, including interpersonal trauma, can cause a range of sexual difficulties, including a decreased sex drive, difficulty becoming aroused, or discomfort during sexual activity.


It's important to note that trauma affects each person differently, and not everyone will experience the same effects on their experience of intimacy. Interpersonal harm is often healed through safe interpersonal relationships, whether romantic or platonic. Trauma responses and relationship experiences can become more healthy and connected with the right social supports in place.


If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma and its impact on intimacy, seeking professional support can be helpful in working through these challenges.


If you would like to speak with a mental health specialist, please don't hesitate to reach out for a confidential chat or for support: 1300 187 448 | support@sentient.global | https://www.sentientpsych.com/contact.


Subject matter expert: Rhiannon Derrig

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