Saturday, April 21, 2012

Empaths & Sexuality: A Look At Empath Sexual Dysfunction

Let's talk about sexuality and being an Empath/Highly Sensitive Person.  This is an issue we all suffer from, in one way or another, and yet tend to be to afraid, nervous, anxiety ridden, or embittered to talk about.  And it's one that is extremely important when it comes to being able to have healthy relationships and a healthy self esteem.



So first let's look at some of the issues Empaths have to contend with and some of the different types of sexual behaviors that Empaths tend to exhibit.  Perhaps you will find yourself somewhere in here.  And perhaps you will learn a little bit more about yourself, in the process.  But remember, whatever is written here is not the end all be all of information.  There will be types of sexuality, situations and behaviors, that won't be mentioned or focused on in as much depth as you might like.  But it doesn't mean to deny or neglect those things, it's simply that I can only put so much into one blog, even on this topic.

Empath Issues Which Affect Sexuality

1. Past Abuse ~
 Issues of past abuse can reek havoc on an Empath's ability to connect with others at a deeply intimate and physical level.  When speaking of sexual abuse, it can cause them to shy away from sexuality on the whole and lean toward celibacy.  It can also cause them to push toward sexuality as their defining factor, leading to promiscuity.  It can also take a different tract, which causes the Empath to be less interested in sex, unable to become aroused, and/or unable to reach orgasm.  And for some people, it can also bring on flashbacks of previous sexual abuse. Mind you, these are not all of the issues that can arise from past sexual abuse, whether the person is male or female.  This is only a short list of potentials.

Past physical and psychological/emotional abuse can also wreak havoc on an Empath's sexual life. And because these issues are often untreated in many people, it can bring issues with trusting, low self esteem/self worth, depression and many others that can play a part in one's sexual dysfunction.

For more detailed information on this very important issue, please take a look at the topic of The Abused Empath.  You'll find a much more complete list of what Empath's have to contend with in their lives due to physical, psychological/emotional, and sexual abuse.

2. Hypersensitivity ~
Many Empaths are hypersensitive.  What this means is they can be born with one or both emotional hypersensitivity and physical hypersensitivity. Some Empaths, unlike those born with this hypersensitivity, develop it later on in life due to external influences such as abuse, neglect, stress, social/cultural pressures, and so on. When combined with the Empath's tendencies toward strong emotional responses, this can wreak havoc on an Empath's ability to preform sexually and the level of levels of intimacy they can achieve with their partners.

3. Physical Causes and Illness~
Illness plays a big role in a person's ability to preform sexually.  Many illnesses can cause sexual dysfunction such as an inability to become aroused, stay aroused, or reach orgasm.  Medicinenet.com lists some of the physical causes of an inability to preform as: Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause sexual problems. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease, neurological diseases, hormonal imbalances, menopause, chronic diseases such as kidney disease or liver failure, and alcoholism and drug abuse. In addition, the side effects of certain medications, including some antidepressant drugs, can affect sexual desire and function.


4. Narcissism and Mental Illness~
Many Empaths are plagued with different types of mental disorders from social anxiety disorders (for more on this topic, please check out Empaths: Hypersensitivity, Anxiety & Coping) to different types of mental illnesses.  All of these, despite what type one might suffer from, can affect an Empath's ability to perform sexually and interact with their intimate partners. And the medications, often used as treatment, can often play a role in one's sexual dysfunction, as well.

Another issue which can harm a Empath is when one is in close contact with a Narcissist as a family member, friend or even one's romantic partner (for more information on this topic, please check out Profile of a Narcissist & Narcissism Symptoms).  Close contact with a Narcissist can cause low self esteem, low self worth, feelings of intense guilt and/or shame, depression and many other issues, which can lead an Empath to have an inability to perform sexually or connect with their partners on a deeper level.

5. Other Psychological Issues~
Medicinenet.com lists some other psychological issues that can affect sexuality as:  work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, and the effects of a past sexual trauma.

Types Of Sexuality

 1. Submission
     ~ During the act of submission a person relinquishes control, in a sexual context, to their partner during intimate encounters.  Carried to an even deeper extreme, a person can pass control to another for a large percentage of their day-to-day life.
     ~ For Empaths, this can become a patterned behavior, both sexually and in everyday life, because of an Empath's need to sooth and heal others, their deep seeded need for peace in their relationships, and their feelings of inadequacy.  This can ultimately translate into a submissive personality, particularly during intimate encounters.
    ~ It is interesting to note that while Submission does not always lead to a predilection toward BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, Masochism), it often accompanies it.  A need to reenact feelings of shame and submission and be disciplined/punished and a need to feel pain, sometimes for sexual gratification, also go hand in hand with Submission at times.  But this is all about the level of Submission a person feels inclined toward and does not speak to everyone's preferences.

2. Promiscuity
     ~ Promiscuity, in human sexual behavior, refers to the practice of casual sex with multiple sexual partners.
     ~ For Empaths, this can become a patterned behavior that is expressed because of a lack of self worth, in order to find some kind of validation of their worth.  The Empath goes out searching for validation in a way which grants them both a modicum of control in their lives, by choosing their partners, and validation of their worth, based on compliments they receive during the sexual encounters.  These things can become almost addictive, where in the Empath bases their entire self worth on sexual aspects of their personalities, ultimately defining themselves through that tainted perception of themselves.

3. Sexual Symbiosis
     ~ Sexual Symbiosis is a little more difficult to describe.  Symbiosis can be defined, in this case, as the coming together of two people who live in a mutually beneficial relationship.  In the case of sexuality, it is one where two people come together and share in the mutually pleasurable act of orgasm, without pushing away from the physical sensations or emotional tidal waves that rise out of the act.
    ~ This is a very hard state to reach for an Empath, because a majority of Empaths tend to be highly emotional, in their own right, and highly sensitive to the emotional undercurrents of those around them, particularly their romantic partners in both an every day sense and in a more intimate sense.  Taking on the physical sensations and emotional currents of their own sexual gratification and that of their partner can be a mind blowing experience which can completely overwhelm an Empath and leave them in a shattered state, by its completion.  This is a state that many Empaths avoid at all costs, preferring instead, a more vicarious sexual interaction focused more on the act of giving than receiving.

4.Vicarious Sexuality
     ~ Vicarious sexuality, as we mentioned briefly in Sexual Symbiosis, can allude to several different levels of indirect sexuality.  These range from the viewing of pornographic material, to voyeurism, which is the spying on or actual viewing of others participating in sexual acts, to a more direct tract.  The more direct tract mentioned, is that of a preference toward giving, rather than receiving, or how shall I say it, preforming sexual acts on others instead of having it done to them.  This is done so that the person  who prefers vicarious sexuality can feel their own pleasure through viewing their partner's pleasure.  And the more their partner feels, the more emboldened they become to continue.
     ~ Empaths tend to lean toward this type of sexuality, preferring to feel their intimacy vicariously through their partners because sexual congress can become so emotionally and physically intense.  And because they also tend to feel the pleasures of both themselves and their partners at the same time.

5. Asexuality/Celibacy
     ~ Asexuality, in its broadest sense, is the lack of sexual attraction to others or the lack of interest in sex. It may also be considered a lack of a sexual orientation.  Celibacy refers to a state of being unmarried, or a state of abstinence from sexual intercourse or the abstention by vow from marriage. The term celibacy refers to refraining from any romantic relationships, particularly marriage.
    ~ In this case, the Empath, because of whatever psychological issues which plague them, leans toward a celibate lifestyle and can come to define themselves as asexual as an explanation for the celibacy.  Or they could potentially embrace the idea of celibacy for a higher spiritual calling, as in becoming a Nun/Priest or in the attainment of Enlightenment.

Empathic Sexual Dysfunction

 When we talk about Empaths, sex, and sexual dysfunction, it is a very touchy subject for most people because it touches on private issues that can cause deep embarrassment and shame if they were brought out into the open.  Who wants others to know that you have issues in the bedroom? Or that you delight in certain types of sex play and fetishes? Or that you have issues connecting, on a deeper level, with your partners?  Or that you are celibate/promiscuous for whatever reason?

Many of these issues, as embarrassing as they are and as vulnerable as they leave us feeling toward ridicule, speak to deeper issues at play inside us, some of which we may not even be aware of at the conscious level. And just like the shame and embarrassment we associate with having our sexual issues and preferences known to the world, these to can leave us feeling naked and open to the world at large, open to ridicule and derision.

But even though we tend not to talk openly about these issues with other people on a regular basis, it doesn't mean we shouldn't become more aware of our own preferences and the underlying reasons for those preferences, as well as, the issues that might cause us to have some kind of sexual dysfunction.  It is important to become more aware of these things not just for your own good mental health, but also for the health of your intimate relationships, despite the shame/embarrassment you might associate with these things.

So to that end, I must offer this to each of you.  This blog is not offered to upset anyone, offend, judge or shame anyone in any way.  It is offered in the hopes that you discover something about yourself, even if you do not find that any of this information fits you perfectly, and your issues.  Because the more you learn about yourself, the better you are able to cope with issues that arise in your life and not shove them to the side, out of guilt, shame, and/or embarrassment.

But I digress, when Empaths, who are, in general, highly emotive and highly sensitive toward those around them, combine these factors with intimacy and sex, it can become a situation where in they suffer such sensory overload they begin to avoid it at all costs or they begin to define their own value based on those experiences (ie. how well they preform sexually).

So consider all of this, whether you do it openly or in private.  Contemplate these things and look at your sexuality with a critical eye, instead of one bound in shame and avoidance.  And don't judge yourself to harshly.  Whether you realize it or not, everyone has sexual preferences and issues they don't talk about with others.  All you have to do is look at the other people walking down the street to realize you aren't alone.

So think about it....

For more information on these issues, try these links:

Sexual Fetishism
Sexual Dysfunction
Celibacy
CDC's Sexual Health Page
Healthy Sexuality (PDF)
Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN)

3 comments:

  1. Once in awhile I have checked the internet for info on empaths and first time I have found a website with real and important information - good or bad !!!!
    Your insight into empaths is astounding - well done !!!!

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  2. I am an empath and this article hits home on a mulitude of levels. Having an emotionally abusive father has literally sent me through everything you have described from one extreme to another. Is there hope for an empath? My relationship future seems dismal. Currently going through the celibate stage.

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    1. There is always hope. The beginning of that hope is seeing yourself for all that you are and learning to accept even those things you are ashamed of. You don't have to like/love those parts of yourself, but you don't have to hide them away either. They are a part of what makes you who you are, good or bad not withstanding.

      Relationships are based on mutual respect, love, communication, trust and compromise. It can only work, in a healthy way, if its about two individuals coming together into a life that compliments one another, instead of one that becomes dependent on one partner over another.

      That being said, the best way to find what you are looking for is to start looking inward...getting to know yourself better...instead of looking for someone to fill that void inside you. The relationship part, sadly, tends to be secondary, unless you are very lucky in your choice of partner, on that journey of self discovery.

      So yes, there is hope. But like anything worth having, its something you have to work for.

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