PTSD Identity: Reckless Sex to Feel Alive and Worthwhile

Reckless Sex: The sexual experience with another human being can make one feel very alive, very alive…did I mention “very alive”?  In terms of the PTSD-Identity there are at least two elements to sexual behavior.  One has to do with feeling alive.  The other has to do with finding meaning in our suffering. 

Sex in Order to Feel Like I Have Personal Value:  PTSD survivors struggle to perceive meaning in their lives.  Part of the PTSD-Identity is to feel worthless, to feel that our lives have no meaning.  If left unattended this results in suicide or death by recklessness.  The soul damaged PTSD person frequently experiences issues with feelings of worthlessness.  Promiscuity endeavors to answer this symptom.  But it is a false solution, it is a trap. 

If for five minutes (or overnight) someone finds me appealing enough to have sex with, then I momentarily don’t feel as worthless as I did before.  If they wanted to get mostly naked with me, then they must find some value in me, right?  I must be a worthwhile person, right?  The downside to this is that after the sex is over, we feel more worthless than we did before we slept with him or her.  Once again, the solution to the PTSD-Identity symptom does not actually solve the problem.  It exacerbates it. 

Sex in Order to Feel Alive Again: My PTSD-Identity wants me to feel alive like I did when I was involved in uncontrolled violence and trauma.  The sex act can come close to replicating the ecstatic thrill of whatever it is that gave me trauma in the first place.  And it is important to remember, that just because the traumatic experience was ecstatic does not mean it was enjoyed or moral.  Being raped, molested, shot, or watching violence is not a joyful or moral experience. 

The PTSD-afflicted soul often seeks reckless sex in order to feel alive or to feel as if their lives matter.  In each case this is a result of the PTSD-Identity.  The PTSD-Identity tries to make us feel dead, isolated, and worthless.  We sometimes try to remedy those feelings by having sex which is meaningless and often dangerous in terms of sexually transmitted diseases and angry spouses. 

 With PTSD motivated reckless sex, as with most addictive behaviors, one may momentarily feel better, alive, possessing self-worth, but then the crash will hit.  One feels worse than they did before.  Ironically, as we strive to feel alive or worthwhile, the PTSD-Identity directs us into behaviors which cause further damage to relationships and to our souls.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. I was diagnosed with PTSD more than 20 years ago when I was still a kid in foster care, I was never given help. I was abused the first 18 years of my life! 18 years!!! I turned to sex and drugs. Drugs made me violent. I got clean. I started having even more sex to cope. I ended up raped. I started having even more sex, more violent sex. I was raped, brutally assault and left for dead. I fell apart. I was in a fog for days. Then the fog started breaking with bursts of rage. I would go from nothingness to a raving lunatic back to nothingness. Then I started feeling better, calmer. I worked up the courage to leave my home and then a man smiled at me and the rage was back, it terrified me. I started therapy. Most days I feel ok but other days I feel lost and empty.Some days, even good days I wonder why I bother, I question whether any of this is worth it. I’ll never have the life I want. I can’t get back the life i’ve lost. By the time i’m well enough to actually live instead of just exist i’ll be old and nearing the end anyways so I don’t know why I bother going on. I guess i’m crazy enough to have hope.

    • Hello EG,
      Your life still has value, it always has and it always will. You are right (and smart) to have hope. Like you, some days I feel empty and loss. On those days I try to be sure and make no life-altering decisions except for one particular decision. The decision I allow myself on the empty and loss days is the decision to not kill myself or otherwise cause myself harm. I don’t get those empty and loss days as frequent as I used to, and they tend to not last as long as they used to either, but they still show up now and then to see if they can crap all over me and cause me to harm myself. If I do harm myself, then the PTSD just laughs and giggles. Frankly, I refuse to give the bastard the satisfaction…and neither should you.
      Stick with the therapy as you can. Do at least one creative thing a day, even if it is just drawing a stick figure on a napkin. Creativity and love are often like antibiotics against the hate-filled despair that PTSD wants to strangle us with.
      I am, my self, much older and “nearer to the end” than I was when I was initially traumatized. But now, a few decades on in my journey, I am more happy and at peace than I used to be – even before the initial set of traumas. So please do not sell yourself short, even if I only had a short time left I would try to take it as a gift and explore life and love through creativity and prayer.
      You have been through some horrible experiences. They have been wounding, PTSD-inducing experiences. Yet, be that as it may, your life still has and always will have value. Even having survived all you have been through, it is quite possible for you to have happiness and peace in your future. Please, do not give up. Your hope is not crazy, it is a loving grace that you can hold on to and explore.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Hello

    I have mailed several times regarding my husband so i hope you remember me.

    I am feeling like the difficult dark days are getting less frequent.when they come the intense pain and grief i feel for losing my husband via separation due to his actions from ptsd is unbearable.

    My daughter and i talk alot about what had happened and we have partially forgiven.the only reason we cannot completely forgive is the pain its caused.i miss him so much and try to see him once a week as we love each other very much.the emotional pain this has caused is very hard to live with in the sense that while i feel a great love for my husband and he for me,it is difficult to feel normal.

    Still such a shock all that we discovered and that i had to discover everything.he came forward with one thing when we were going into church he admitted to falling for someone he was seeing altho they had only met twice.

    Now he says looking back it is like it was a different person and he is so shameful of his actions.he is seeking psychological hel and then going onto christian counsellor who will help further help him and guidebhim thru his ptsd and healing

    The thing i find most hard is the pain comes and goes and when it is with me my hurts,insecurities and being alone now with my daughter intensify to the point where i ask a million questions,sometimes the same questions again over and over.

    So much was discovered that he had done over a 10 year period that its a lot to understand and discover.also the fact he did not ever own upto it was hard.i decided after finding emails to him from a women to investigate.first i asked him to leave and its been 3 months now then i went onto detective mode. I then asked him as i discovered things.for the most part he has talked it thru with me but he still gets very defensive especially if im asking the same questions again

    Apparently as i now have trauma caused by innfidelity this is normal.to want to know and ask repeated questions about the women or scenarios.

    He is now seeking help though the church and psychologist.he is living somewhere else and k see him weekly unless we fall out and he is defensive and im upset.doesnt make for a good mix sometimes.

    We want to work things out slowly but some days i wonder why i want him back.aside from his ptsd him and i are very much inlove and have been thru so many other things and always have struggled.our relationship has always been difficult in the sense that outside stresses have made things hard.we couldnt have a baby due to him being infertile because of cancer as a child.

    So many things that made our lives hard.we always stuck together and aside from his ptsd we are determined to not let anything tear us apart.i do not want the ptsd to win but his infedelity and the fact that he hid it and was never going to tell me is so hard to overlook.

    Please only comments from dr semper!!

    Thankyou 🙂

    • Hello Adi, Yes, I do remember you and the hard struggles you and your family have been enduring. I have kept you and your family in prayer.
      Your description of how the pain cycles up and becomes so awful reminds me of a woman I met a while back. Her son was killed in Iraq. She spoke of how things would seem to be going okay and then suddenly a wave of anguish, pain, and bewilderment would crash upon her without any warning. It felt paralyzing. It would eventually subside and then again later would come and swamp her like the tide going in and out. Our own grief and anguish often function this way. The time period between the crashing waves will grow longer over time, but we still get smashed with grief all of a sudden.
      The grief will still hurt us from time to time because the wound is real.
      One of the tough parts about recovering from infidelity is that we will never have all the answers. We may end up asking the same questions more than once because we so desperately want to better understand what has happened. There is nothing wrong with asking the questions, seeking answers. Yet, one of our painful realizations is that we will never get all the answers we want and need. In most cases, our spouse is not even capable of providing a full and complete answer even though they committed the infidelity.
      Over time, we will discover if we can continue to be in a relationship where we will never fully know all the answers. Indeed, even when the cheating partner does not always know themselves the full 100% reason they behaved as they did. This can be maddening. We must be careful that this maddening situation does not cause us to have even deeper wounds that will damage us further.
      Your practice of talking and counselling are valuable. They lead to healing, but it is a painful process.
      When the anger – which is normal – wells up, try to not allow it to influence important decisions. Most decisions made under deep anger will not be good decisions. If the anger is too deep at the moment, put off a meeting with your husband until the wave of anger has subsided. Feel free to speak about the anger and confusion with a counselor, it will actually help. Journal about it. Pray about it. Feel free to write me about it.
      Focusing on the healing will help. Attempting some form of art or music is always helpful.
      Regardless of the long-term outcome with your husband, things will not always feel as horrible as they do in the time since you learned of the infidelity.
      You can and will get through these hard times. Know the waves of anger and anguish will diminish in time, but don’t be surprised when they pop up now and then. It sounds like you have made the decision to not let the PTSD control your life, your forgiveness, or your relationships. That is very valuable.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  3. Linda Sherring says:

    thank you so much. I only had the single one night stand but several inappropriate requests of guys I know. I now no longer feel like a slut who had lowered or disregarded her morals and values. Just a part of my illness which was never explained until I googled it. Again, thank you,

    • The more we can learn about PTSD and how it affects us, the more power and energy we will have to withstand it. If we make a bad decision or mistake in the past, we are not sentenced to continually make the same mistake over and over. We can learn from the situation and get on with our healing. The PTSD wants us to feel trapped and without choices. Learning about how our PTSD wants to keep on damaging us will help us to avoid more damage. And, as we learn more, we can also come to a deeper realization about the value of our own lives. We have value. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  4. I’ve been looking online a lot lately in search for answers to questions like this. I’m 19, an excellent student, everyone thinks I’m the sweetest girl but when I’m left alone I can get very sad and have very out of character thoughts. My father neglected and abused me for years and now I find myself desperately looking for older men (35 to 40) to desire me and care for me and show affection towards me. I feel like I can’t stop, if I try and hold back my feelings and not pursue them I just end up thinking about being with them constantly until I do something about it. I know its dangerous and immoral but I just want to feel that they need to have me. Obviously these men take full advantage, a part if me always wishes they’ll decide to save me instead of just use me, but maybe I’m using them as well .. I just hope that someday I can stop these feelings… I don’t know what I need to feel satisfied.

    • When your mind is not distracted by the earlier abuse, you are able to excel and do well in your endeavors. Thoughts about about negative behaviors can subside over time if we can find a way to not keep giving in to them. Given the damage that was inflicted upon you in earlier life it would be beneficial to talk with a healthcare professional if you have one available. The excellence you have created in your school work and other areas of your life can give you an anchor to hold onto. Knowing that succumbing to exploitative men will take you away from things you most excel at and also away from those things which make you your most authentic self. The men who want to use you will not care much about your long term well-being and personal growth. Whether you can talk to a professional or not, you would do well to write about your experiences in your own private journal. This kind of open, spontaneous writing is very restorative and does not need to be shared with any one else. You have real value and you certainly know how demeaning it feels to be exploited. You can experience more satisfaction and authenticity when you explore the events of your own life instead of allowing dangerous men to make you feel used and disposable. Getting out of this cycle can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Remember, you always have value. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

      • Dr. Z,

        hello, its Seneca again. Its been a little over a year since I left you my comment looking for some guidance. I just wanted to say thank you so much. I’m in such a good place now. I’m in school for Engineering right now and have been in a solid relationship for about a year. I took your advice and sought some professional help and I believe it did a lot of good. I don’t feel like I need to put myself in those situations to feel like I have worth anymore. I do have my dark days, but understanding where it comes from within myself has kept me from acting out. It may not seem like much but your response really started something good for me and I’m so grateful. Thanks for helping people the way you do. I looked back at my cement today and couldn’t believe how far I’ve come. I can’t thank you enough.

        Sincerely,
        Seneca

        • Hello Seneca,
          Hey, this is great news! Thank you for taking the time to share it with me. I am really grateful for that.
          From time to time, the dark spots will rise on the horizon and we need to know that they are not the new normal. As time goes on and we understand ourselves and our PTSD better and better, we are able to not be drawn into despair over temporary developments.
          It is great to know you are in school and studying engineering. That is waaaay cooool!
          Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  5. Your article put pieces of my life puzzle together. I found your article in researching Complex PTSD and Sexual Promiscuity. I’ve recently been diagnosed with CPTSD and am looking for any connection to the bout of extreme sexual promiscuity I exercised during my 18 – 23-year-old years. Very dark years indeed. Accompanied by binge drinking and drug use. It’s such a relief to find I’m not immoral or a “bad person,” but merely a victim who can change that status and overcome. Thank you!!

    • I am grateful to know that the essay was helpful. The combination of that age group and PTSD often leads to extreme behaviors. One minute we are striving to feel alive and another moment we don’t want to feel anything. While these behaviors may cause their own range of damage to ourselves and others, our core selves are struggling to figure out what is happening. PTSD wants us to believe that we are its symptoms, that we are fundamentally bad and immoral; we are not. You are right, we can often struggle to change our status and overcome those awful PTSD behaviors. Paradoxically, when we come out of PTSD’s version of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we are stronger, more authentic, compassionate and better suited to help others. Welcome Home & Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  6. Thank you so very much for your article. My now husband was a combat officer in Iraq for 1 year around 2006 (this was before we ever met). Recently, I found emails that indicated that he used to solicit sex from local women online. Looking at the timeline, it seems he started these activities about 6 months after his return from Iraq. It seemed to continue sporadically for about a year. I couldn’t tell if they were paid services or with promiscuous women who were looking to “hook up”. The collection of short emails were very clear in their intentions to locate strangers to have sex with that very evening, and sometimes very crude and explicit.
    Given the straight laced and high moral man I know, I am in shock and disbelief. I also can’t imagine it was out of desperation for lack of women who legitimately would want to date him.
    As far as I know, he has been faithful to me, other than for a few inappropriate online correspondence with past women in the first year of our relationship.
    I now feel very distrusting and frightened of what else I may not know about him. Your insight casts a light on what could’ve caused this behavior, but I want to make sure I’m not just finding a convenient explanation. Could you help me understand what on earth was happening to his moral standards during that questionable year????
    Angry and confused but want to understand,
    Nichole
    P.S. Thank you for what you do.

  7. I found this article because I recently discovered my boyfriend of seven years started seeing prostitutes after two tours in Iraq. he has other PTSD symptoms: he’s easily angered, he carries a gun everywhere, and he has trouble identifying with other people. I haven’t confronted him with the fact I know this, but I’m wondering if I should, how to do it, and if there is still hope for the relationship.

    • Hello, This is always a difficult situation whether one is speaking of their spouse or their partner. The most prominent question I would have is do you want to stay in a relationship with this person. That is not an easy yes or no answer. One needs to study and learn more about PTSD and how it has damaged the one they love. One also needs to determine how much they can or cannot forgive.

      Your situation is all too common with troops who come back from multiple tours. Some people are able to forgive and start learning how to trust all over again. Others are too devastated and offended at the infidelity to continue the relationship. And, there are also sexually transmitted disease issues associated with infidelity.

      Given the anger and the weapon he carries, you need to ask yourself if you are in physical danger or if he would become a danger if you brought this topic up. While some of us can forgive infidelity and learn to love someone with PTSD, the PTSD is never an excuse to hit or harm someone else. If you feel you are in danger, then you need to find a safer place to be.

      If you want to stay with him (and him to stay with you), then rather than “confront” him about the infidelity, you could perhaps ask him if many men in his unit were unfaithful and why they would be so. It is better if a conversation could be had where he volunteered the information rather than have it extracted from him. A confrontation automatically makes people defensive and increases the initiation of a Fight or Flight response, and may activate anger. Using non-confrontational techniques will help you find out the information you seek and also offer a better road to healing for each of you.

      You may also ask him to read some of the information you discovered on PTSD and reckless sex. This all depends on his anger levels. Most of all you must take good care of yourself. Be safe. Many spouses and partners undergo immense stress upon making this kind of discovery. Make sure that you are also taking care of your own mental health. Keep a notebook; speak to 1 or 2 very trusted friends.

      Having PTSD and infidelity problems is common. It does not have to be a life sentence. There is much healing that can occur and committed monogamy is possible. No one ever need be written off 100% because they have PTSD. In cases of infidelity, some of the issues are forgiveness/repentance, commitments to stop the infidelity, disease avoidance, and honesty. Not everyone can forgive and move ahead to healing together. Some can and some cannot.
      I will keep you, him, and your situation in prayer. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  8. I’m sick of people only validating military service overseas as relevant criteria to the diagnosis of PTSD!!! They damn well knew what they were getting into when they signed on! What about those of us who’ve been physically and emotionally abused in every day life? The victims of crime and deceit on a variety of levels? When you put the military first; you leave out legions of others with equally legitimate concerns! Why doesn’t a simple diagnosis of PTSD mean the same for all; instead of just the military?

    • While there are some folks who may claim that only military-based PTSD is a real, valid PTSD, that is not the case here at PTSD Spirituality. There are over 100 essays on this site, so I don’t expect you to be conversant with them all. But one in particular may be of some use to you as regards the question of PTSD and military versus civilain trauma: You may wish to read the essay at http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/2011/03/15/ptsd-spirituality-big-lie-2-is-only-combat-veterans-get-ptsd/ where I make the point that military service is not a unque indentifier for PTSD.

      When you ask what about those who are victims of crime, deceit etc., my response is that I care about them just as much as I do about military-linked PTSD. I know it is not fashionable to say this, but I care about whoever is struggling with PTSD, regardless of cause. PTSD does not care how a person became traumatized. Trauma comes in all types. I care about anyone who is hurting – I hope you do too.

      Your statement about military personeel knowing what they were getting into when they signed their service contract is mistaken on two grounds. First, drafted soldiers did not choose to sign up. Second, the way military service is marketed to the young – they do use advertising to recruit them, after all – means that most people do not fully know what they are getting into Some youngsters have been told by recruiters thatthey would never see combat or hardship..hardly the truth. Even if someone fully, intellectually understood what they might experience in the military, most still cannot fathom the experience until they have actually experienced the trauma.

      You ask about why is there not a simple PTSD diagnosis for all, civilian and military. Actually, there is. If you look at DSM-IV and the upcoming DSM-V, the criteria for PTSD are not limited to or exclusive to only military trauma. That people have caused the survivors of civililan-based trauma to feel diminished compared to military-based trauma is unfortunate and wrong. Every life, no matter how it is lived, whether civilian or military has value. That includes your life. You, too, have value.

      While my own PTSD stems from military service, and I was not a draftee, I am sympathetic to anyone who has been trauamtized and now has PTSD. You have value – and so does the life and journey of all others. I wish you peace.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

    • I understand your point of view, but we knew damn well what we was getting into? Go stand in front of a firing squad! Such ignorance!

  9. Saran Rogers says:

    I wanted to thank you for this article. My husband and I are going through this right know. He has severe PTSD from one of his tours in Iraq. He was on Staff Duty and had meet a person over the internet and meet her that night to have sex. He has been charged with Adultery and leaving his duty station. Im still very upset but at the same time trying to support him. He always tells me “you dont understand what im going through”. After running across your article I have a bit more of a understanding. Thank you very much.

    • Hello, You are in the midst of an immense struggle – both of you. In some ways you yourself have been hit with what I call PTSD shrapnel. While we remain responsible for our actions caused by PTSD, we can also use them to engage in reflection and repentance. Many of us have struggled with people who don’t undrstand what we have gone through and those who don’t want to know what we have gone through. Part of the PTSD struggle is that the challenges and loss of meaning continue well beyond the events which gave us PTSD. One hopes that the events you describe may serve as a wake up call to the PTSD and together you can both focus on the understanding and healing of this terrible situation. Even King David wrote Psalm 51 after his adultery caused so much death and destruction. I and others pray for graceful healing in your family. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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