What happens when a sex therapist visits a women-only Parkinson’s support group? A frank exchange about “redefining sexuality”, recalls Sharon Krischer AKA ‘Twitchy Woman’
Recently, psychologist and certified sex therapist, Dr Beth Leedham, spoke to our women’s support group about sex. A women-only environment allowed for an honest discussion about issues relating to Parkinson’s and our sexual behaviour.
According to Dr Leedham, most doctors and therapists are not comfortable about talking about it, and their patients are not comfortable talking about it, so no one talks about it.
There is very little research about women with Parkinson’s and sexuality. She started with an old survey, from 1992. The question was: “Over the last 12 months have you…?”
And the results: 43% of women and 31% of men reported having sexual dysfunction. The rate is higher in populations with mental or physical health issues. So this is a very common issue among all adults.
In a study of women with Parkinson’s, the most common difficulty is getting aroused (*87.5%). Parkinson’s affects the autonomic nervous system, and that is the system responsible for arousal. Others include difficulty reaching orgasm (75%) and dyspareunia or painful sex (12.5%).
Some of the causes: motor changes, bladder changes, cognitive changes, differences communicating emotion, sleep disturbance, depression, changes in self-esteem and body image, medication side effects and on and on.
“Most doctors and therapists are not comfortable about talking about it”
Sexuality statistics (Taken from a study in 1992)
43% of women and 31% of men with Parkinson’s reported experiencing sexual dysfunction
87.5% of women with Parkinson’s have difficulty is getting aroused Parkinson’s
75% have difficulty reaching orgasm
12.5% experience dyspareunia or painful intercourse
Was it “meh” for you too?
In addition, the normal issues related to aging can cause problems. Decrease of oestrogen and testosterone with menopause, vaginal tissues become thinner, decrease in lubrication. Men have aging issues too. So sexual dysfunction increases among all men and women as they age. The prevalence of sexual dysfunction among women with Parkinson’s is slightly higher than that of post-menopausal women. So is the problem due to aging or is it due to Parkinson’s?
In many cases changes in long-term relationships because of the condition can cause conflicts for both the person with Parkinson’s and the partner. Sometimes, the partner experiences ‘well-spouse’ stress. ‘Enmeshment’, or unwelcome intimacies (closeness that is too close) can occur after a diagnosis. The well spouse may feel solely responsible for the partner with Parkinson’s.
The number one issue, however, is differences in desire between the two partners. Some of the issues are due to the aging of both partners, some are because of Parkinson’s and some are because of differences in expectations. We forget that we are not 20 years old anymore and that we experience things differently now. It is ok to negotiate and change things. Fix the causes that can be fixed.
Accommodate for aging. Address relationship issues. Take risks and try new things. Look at it as an opportunity to redefine and reclaim sexuality and eroticism.
This article is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on ‘Twitchy Woman’s Adventures with Parkinson’s’ and is re-published with the permission of Sharon Krischer. Read more of her blog here
No Escape Room: a Parkinson’s campaign like no other
The escape room simulates common Parkinson’s symptoms
4 days ago
Study finds just six minutes of daily exercise might delay onset of Parkinson’s disease
Regular exercise is a common therapeutic strategy for people with Parkinson’s. Now, a study from New Zealand has suggested that daily physical activity might even delay the onset of this condition. Published in ‘The Physiological Society’, the study focused on a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – which has previously been shown to boost cognitive performance. The researchers assessed the impact of fasting and physical activity on BDNF production in 12 people aged 18 to 56. The tests involved fasting and completing exercises of varying intensity, such as cycling for six minutes, as well as combinations of both fasting and physical activity. The results showed that brief, intense exercise was the best option for increasing the production of BDNF – with the protein increasing by a factor of four to five times compared to light exercise or fasting. Because BDNF can protect the brain from cognitive decline, the findings could…
Machine learning may help predict risk of freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease
Difficulty taking steps forward, often referred to as the freezing of gait (FOG), is a common symptom experienced by people with Parkinson’s and one that can be difficult to predict. China-based researchers suggest that machine learning – artificial intelligence (AI) that uses algorithms to analyse data – could help predict the risk of freezing of gait developing in the early stages of the condition. Their study, published in ‘npj Parkinson’s Disease’, gave laboratory and clinical data to a machine learning model brain. This information was collected from 158 adults with untreated early-stage Parkinson’s and 73 healthy adults over a five-year period. They found that the risk of FOG could be predicted with an accuracy rate of up to 78%. The study authors suggested that machine learning methods “have the potential to help predict future FOG in patients with early Parkinson’s at an individual level”.
Long-term exposure to air pollution could impact Parkinson’s disease mortality risk
New research has suggested that long-term exposure to air pollutants could increase the risk of death from Parkinson’s. A team of European researchers conducted the study, published in the journal ‘Environment International’, as part of the Effects of Low-Level Air Pollution: A Study in Europe (ELAPSE) project – a Europe-wide initiative looking at the effects of low air pollution levels on people’s health. The researchers used ELAPSE’s datasets to analyse figures for over 200,000 adults from six European countries. They also looked at air pollution models, estimating the concentrations of air pollutants in these countries to explore the link between pollution exposure and deaths from Parkinson’s. The results suggest that long-term exposure to PM2.5 particles at high levels was associated with a 25% higher risk of death from the condition, and the authors of the study added that the research “adds strong evidence in support of an association between air…