March 9, 2008

How E. Effects Sexuality...

Nothing is more complex than human desire. Nothing is more intimidating than attempting to successfully negotiate the expectations we have of one another that will lead to a happy courtship, either. According to Epilepsy Ontario, "Studies have suggested that men and women with epilepsy experience a disorder of arousal rather than a disorder of desire" This sounds like good news: it says that while we want sex, we may not be charged up for it when the time comes to have it. (www.epilepsyontario.org/client/EO/EOWeb.nsf/web). 

Some of the things that limit persons with E. when it comes to this most intimate of all physical contacts can include:

The stigmatization of the condition of epilepsy can make a person feel self-conscious which can affect self perspective of one's own body and sexual needs.

Restriction of social opportunities or restriction of access to usual educational and occupational experiences is often inflicted unnecessarily upon a person with epilepsy.

Recurrent seizures may lead to a sense of vulnerability and helplessness (poor self-esteem), impairing the capacity to form healthy, nurturing relationships.

Fear that sexual activity will induce a seizure, particularly for persons whose seizures are sometimes triggered by hyperventilation or physical exertion.

Fear of disclosure of your condition to your partner can affect the sexual dynamics of your relationship.

Social and familial stresses due to your sexual orientation, as well as living with epilepsy, may affect your sexual responses and relationships.

In other chronic illnesses, poor acceptance of the condition is associated with sexual dysfunction.

Sexual behaviour may be negatively reinforced if sexual feelings are a component of a seizure.

Disruption of brain regions mediating sexual behavior, either by fixed lesions or by epileptiform discharges

Changes in hormones supporting sexual behavior due to seizures and/or antiepileptic drugs

Antiepileptic drugs have direct effects on brain regions mediating sexuality and may also cause sexual dysfunction by secondary effects on reproductive hormones (http://www.epilepsyontario.org/client/EO/EOWeb.nsf/web/Sexual+Relationships)

We should  understand that as persons with E.,  there are a variety of kinds of obstacles to be overcome, when it comes to intimacy. They are not uniform, nor are they the same for each of us. 

There was a time in the past when we persons with E. were counseled to resign ourselves to the idea that love, sex and intimacy were things we simply could not have for ourselves. From my own experience, I can recall overhearing conversations about whether it was a good idea to give me a Bride's Doll for Christmas... something about not wanting to get my hopes up, only to be let down later. Today, only about 50% of epileptics are married or in long-term, consistent relationships. 

Having E. does not mean foregoing love and desire. But, like everything else, each of us has to recognize how we can balance our condition with our needs.

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