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What To Do If You Get A Panic Attack During Sex

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By Sophie Saint Thomas

A few years ago, while an ex-partner was going down on me, I realized I was having trouble breathing. Then a sense of dread filled my head, and I felt like I was being stabbed in the chest. So I quickly asked him to stop — not because he was doing anything wrong, but because I was having a panic attack during sex.

One of the (few) good things about panic attacks is that they usually only last for about 15 minutes, says Gail Saltz, MD, psychiatrist and author of The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder And Genius. When I had my attack, I sat on the edge of the bed and did a series of breathing exercises. Gradually, I did begin to feel better.

But one of the most perplexing aspects of panic attacks is that they’re intensely fearful physical reactions that occur in the absence of any real danger or identifiable cause, as the Mayo Clinic explains. In my case, I was in a safe space with someone I trusted when my ex was going down on me. However, I had very real and terrifying feelings of detachment, the aforementioned shortness of breath, and chest pains.

Of course, I’m speaking about panic attacks during consensual sex. Fear that happens during an assault or dangerous sexual experience is completely different than having a panic attack during healthy sexual intimacy. (Reach out to RAINN if that’s the case.)

Although there are many causes for panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often to blame, says Barbara Greenberg, PhD, clinical psychologist and relationship expert. That was true for me: I’m a survivor of multiple sexual assaults and have been diagnosed with PTSD by a psychiatrist. As a result, sometimes during sex, I’ll have a flashback of an incident and experience a panic attack. Although the attacks subsided thanks to therapy and medication, it’s an ongoing process.

That said, panic attacks during sex can also happen to people who haven’t been sexually assaulted or diagnosed with PTSD. Dr. Greenberg says that generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder can also trigger panic attacks during intimacy, but anyone can have one during their life — with or without a diagnosed disorder. Sometimes these things just happen.

However, if your panic attacks are, like mine, recurring and have an identifiable root cause, it’s an especially healthy idea to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Saltz says. “If you are having multiple panic attacks or PTSD flashbacks you should 100% get treatment,” Dr. Saltz says. Treatment will begin with an evaluation of the cause of the panic attacks with a mental health professional. Then, that person will suggest therapy, medication, or both.

But is there anything you can do when you’re in the midst of a panic attack during sex? The first thing to do, if you can, is explain to your partner what’s happening — and step back from sex to take care of yourself. You can always try having sex again later when you’re feeling better. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practice, and reassuring self-talk can all be helpful in calming a panic attack, says Michael Aaron, PhD, a sex therapist and author of Modern Sexuality: The Truth about Sex and Relationships. Changing your physical position or getting up to walk around can also help comfort you.

At that point, Dr. Aaron says it’s okay to take any anti-anxiety medication you’ve been prescribed, such as benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin). Because you can become dependent on such medications over time, they’re meant to be used on an as-needed basis, Dr. Aaron says. But, depending on your individual needs, you may be taking them for a week or have a prescription at-the-ready for the rest of your life. While you’re taking these medications, though, you’re also (ideally) learning other self-soothing techniques in therapy that will come in handy when you stop taking the meds as frequently.

On top of managing what’s happening in your own mind and body, explaining it to your partner presents another challenge. In particular, when I had a panic attack, my partner had a hard time understanding that he did nothing wrong. But Dr. Saltz says that, in the moment, it’s enough to “tell your partner [your panic attack] will pass, take slow and deep breaths, and relax your muscles.” After the crisis has passed, you can get into a more detailed description of what you experienced — and how it wasn’t your partner’s fault.

If you’ve been a witness to someone else’s panic attack, know that they have likely experienced panic attacks before meeting you and probably will have them after you’ve parted ways, says Amanda Luterman, MA, OPQ, a psychotherapist who specializes in sexuality. “What you can do is be a soothing and stabilizing partner for that person, keep the focus on them, and reassure them that it’s going to pass,” she explains.

So, remember that panic attacks do go away. But if you continue to have them during sex as part of a larger mental health issue or due to unresolved trauma, you should seek treatment. Trust me, it can be a life- (and sex life-) saving experience.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Embracing Your Sexuality (Fetishes & All) Makes You A More Attractive Partner

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Growing into our sexual selves is a lifelong process, like growing up in general. But because we don’t have a lot of language for our sexual lives, we somehow erroneously expect that sex is something we are born knowing how to do. Like any other physical and emotional skill, our sexual capacity to both give and receive pleasure increases with education and practice.

We begin waking up to our emerging erotic consciousness in our early adolescence. This awakening process is mostly subconscious, as our maturing brain connects the powerful arousal mechanism to historic and unresolved painful events and relationships. Like our fingerprints, or the subtle distinctions in our sense of smell—what turns us on sexually is largely outside of our control and often contradicts the way we view ourselves outside of the bedroom.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the first and often the most persistent issue for most of us on our sexual journey is reconciling our interests with our sense of what is “normal.” Quite often, sexual discovery tests the boundaries of normalcy. Our sexual selves are the unique, wild streak in us that cannot be contained and whose full pleasure potential cannot be achieved if we try to rein it in.

“Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” —Sydney Harris

Instead of healthy dialogue and reliable information about what it means to become and embrace who we are sexually, our curiosity and confusion about emerging sexuality are often met with archaic teachings, generational discomfort from those we trust, misinformation from our peers, and a complex cultural obsession.

The majority of us never have the opportunity to adequately explore the questions that arise from our earliest adolescent erotic awakening. Maturing beyond our initial discomfort requires education, and real sexual education is hard to come by.

For many young people, low-grade anxiety prevents them from engaging in any real conversations, whether with a friend, doctor, or even their partners about their fears and the obstacles they face sexually. Often, even the more progressive will turn their sexual concerns into a joke, laughing at their discomfort and communicating either that sexual concerns are not to be taken seriously or at least not to be discussed seriously.

What we suppress becomes more powerful. Suppressing our sexual nature only exacerbates our preoccupation with it. Asking honest questions about our sexual selves and being able to get reliable information allows us to use sexual privacy in healthy ways. Studies show that the kids who are given the most sexual education are often the last ones to engage sexually. They don’t need to learn about it by doing it—their theoretical learning allows them to make healthy choices about when and with whom they want to do it.

People who have come to terms with this essential aspect of their being are happier and more satisfied in every other aspect of their life as well.

Likewise, adults who move beyond their adolescent sexual anxiety through education gain not only the courage to take ownership of their erotic preferences but also the skills to engage in sexual behavior that is consistently pleasurable. Sexually mature adults are not waiting for someone else to make them feel sexy or give them permission to explore the range of their sexual function.

Taking full responsibility for their own sexual needs allows them to also be truly responsive to the sexual needs of others, which makes them attractive partners that tend to stay partnered. Aspiring to sexual maturity evokes a host of other essential skills for life—sexually mature adults tend to also be emotionally intelligent and capable of dealing with life changes.

Our sexual selves are often perceived as a locked box of bizarre fantasies and out-of-control impulses toward carnal pleasure. While it’s true that a mature sex life employs these tools for pleasure, working at our sexual evolution is more like developing core strength. Because our erotic identity is so central to who we are, people who have come to terms with this essential aspect of their being are happier and more satisfied in every other aspect of their life as well.

Complete Article HERE!

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Dominant Submissive Relationships In The Bedroom – Part 1

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Why BDSM Couples Like Having Rough Sex

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Many couples will admit sex can become predictable over the course of a relationship. We all know the routine: we go to the bedroom, turn off the lights, and have sex (almost) always in the missionary position until we’re done. Although there’s nothing wrong with “vanilla” sex, some couples choose to spice things up in the bedroom a la Fifty Shades of Grey.

The novel and namesake movie sparked our curiosity surrounding the taboo 6-for-4 deal acronym: Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism, also known as BDSM, or S&M. Some couples receive pleasure from the physical or psychological pain and suffering of biting, grabbing, spanking, or hair pulling. This type of consensual forceful play is a thrill many of us desire, and the reasons are natural.

Heather Claus, owner of DatingKinky.com, who has been in the BDSM scene for about 24 years, believes people who seek out kink of any kind tend to be looking for something “more.”

“More creative, more passionate, more sexy, more intimate than what they’ve found so far in traditional or ‘vanilla’ relationships,” she told Medical Daily.

Yet, BDSM critics believe it’s an unhealthy, unnatural behavior sought by those who are troubled, or with compromised mental health.

So, does our urge for naughty, uninhibited sex reflect an underlying psychological disorder, or is it just a part of a healthy sexual lifestyle?

1. Shades Of Grey: DSM-5

In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele have a budding “romance” that revolves around partially consensual BDSM where Grey inflicts pain or dominance over his partner. Grey admits to being neglected by his mother who was a drug addict and controlled by a pimp, who would beat and abuse him. It has long been believed those in BDSM relationships often show signs of the mental disorder sexual sadism.

Currently, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), used by mental health professionals, individuals are diagnosed with “sexual sadism” if they experience sexual excitement from the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim. They must meet the following criteria:

1) “Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim is sexually exciting to the person.”

2)  “The person has acted on these sexual urges with a nonconsenting person, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.”

BDSM Sadist Vs. Diagnosed Sadist

There are two clear distinctions between a BDSM sadist and a sadist according to the manual. In BDSM, a sadist revels in the consensual pain that is desired by the bottom, or receiver. They enjoy the fact that the bottom enjoys the pain. However, a diagnosed sadist enjoys when they hurt another truly and deeply without consent.

“In a BDSM ‘scene,’ pain creates a connection and depth, an intimacy if you will,” said Claus. The key here is consent.

Someone who identifies as a kinky sadist is often looking for this, or even more than just the pain experience.

Fifty Shades has received a lot of criticism because it’s not an accurate portrayal of BDSM. Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert, believes there are many misconceptions about the practice due to how it’s shown in the movie. For example, in Grey and Steele’s day-to-day relationship, she’s afraid of him. He takes her old Volkswagen and sells it without her consent, and then hands her the keys to a new, luxurious car.

Wanis stresses Grey made the choice for her, without considering whether she had an opinion, or whether that opinion means anything or not.

Fifty Shades of Grey opened conversations around rough sex, kinky sex, and BDSM, although it’s not an example of BDSM, it’s rather an example of psychological abuse, as well as physical, verbal, and maybe even sexual abuse,” Wanis told Medical Daily.

A healthy, functional BDSM relationship thrives on communication.

“When we are practicing things that have the potential to harm—and I’m using the word harm to mean lasting damage versus hurt to mean current pain—communication and consent are critical,” Claus said.

Moreover, those who practice BDSM may be just as mentally healthy as non-practitioners. Many other factors determine one’s mental health besides sexuality.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality found BDSM is not a pathological symptom, but rather, a wide range of normal human erotic interests. Researchers administered a questionnaire and 7 psychometric tests to 32 participants who self-identified as BDSM practitioners. The findings revealed the group was generally mentally healthy, and just a select few experienced early abuse, while only two participants met the criteria for pathological narcissism, hinting no borderline pathology. No evidence was found that clinical disorders, including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsion, are more prevalent in the BDSM community.

2. Initial Attraction To BDSM

BDSM is not as unconventional as we’d like to think. According to Wanis, a majority of the population has fantasies about dominance and submission. Many women have fantasies about submission, while many men have fantasies about dominance.

“We all have a fantasy that involves some form of rough sex, because one of us wants to dominate, and one of us wants to submit,” said Wanis.

However, fantasy is not to be confused with reality. Some things look pleasurable in our minds, but wouldn’t turn out well in reality. Our initial attraction to BDSM can originate in two ways; either as an intrinsic part of the self, or via external influences, according to a 2011 study in Psychology & Sexuality.

The researchers noted there were few differences in gender or BDSM role when it came to someone’s initial interest. The only gender differences found were among submissive participants: a greater proportion of men than women cited their interest came from their “intrinsic self,” whereas a greater proportion of women than men cited “external influences.”

In other words, men were more likely to cite their BDSM interest as coming from inside of  themselves compared to women. They were naturally, inherently driven to seek out this type of sexual behavior, whereas women were more influenced by external forces, like a friend or a lover.

Although we know what can trigger our curiosity, why do some of us enjoy it more?

3. Dominant And Submissive Relationship

BDSM involves a wide range of practices that include role-playing games where one partner assumes the dominant role (“dom”), and the other partner assumes a submissive role (“sub”). The dom controls the action, while the sub gives up control, but does set limits on what the dom can do.

“Dominants and submissives come from all walks of life,” Claus said.

For example, in Fifty Shades, Grey is a high-powered leader of a company, which may seem obvious for a dominant man. However, a man or woman who might be in charge in their professional life may want to give up that power in the bedroom.

“Power is the greatest aphrodisiac,” Wanis said. “… giving oneself over to a dominant person represents becoming consumed by the power, which in turn creates sexual arousal.”

A popular misconception is if you’re submissive in the bedroom, you’re weak and have low self-esteem. A partner who chooses to submit to a lover in a consensual, healthy relationship shows a lot of power.

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, has found many submissives are actually quite powerful people who manage great responsibilities in their professional and personal lives.

“Being submissive in bed allows them an opportunity to play an alternative role and alleviates some of the regular pressure associated with their everyday lives,” she told Medical Daily.

Top, Bottom, And Switching

It’s often mistaken doms are always on top, and submissive are on bottom. A person can simultaneously adopt the role of bottom and dom, known as topping from the bottom. Meanwhile, a bottom can be a submissive partner; someone who receives stimulation, but is not submissive; and someone who enjoys submission on a temporary basis.

Couples tend to have a preferred role they mostly play, but some enjoy alternating roles, known as “switches.”

A 2013 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine asked BDSM aficionados to complete a survey about their sex habits through a website devoted to personal secrets. In the sample, men were primarily tops as 48 percent identified as dominant and 33 percent as submissive. Women were primarily bottoms with 76 percent as submissive, and 8 percent as dominant.

The Submissive Feminist

Now, some critics of BDSM will argue women who want to be submissive in the bedroom are promoting female oppression. These submissive women may be gaining control because they are choosing what they want to do sexually. This includes being bossed around, ordered to perform sex acts, or being spanked, restrained, or verbally talked down to.

Claus asserts, “Feminism is first and foremost about equal rights to choose. So, BDSM, being 100 percent consensual, is a feminist’s paradise.”

Dominant and submissive relationships are not limited to gender; there are men who want to be dominated, and women who want to dominate. This implies our sexual desires don’t always coincide with our personal and political identity. In BDSM, we’re playing a role where a kinky scene can serve as a form of escapism.

“You can have a highly egalitarian relationship and still engage in kinky sex in the presence of ongoing informed consent,” said O’Reilly.

Complete Article HERE!

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Cross-Cultural Evidence for the Genetics of Homosexuality

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Mexico’s third gender sheds light on the biological correlates of sexual orientation

By Debra W. Soh

The reasons behind why people are gay, straight, or bisexual have long been a source of public fascination. Indeed, research on the topic of sexual orientation offers a powerful window into understanding human sexuality. The Archives of Sexual Behavior recently published a special edition devoted to research in this area, titled “The Puzzle of Sexual Orientation.” One study, conducted by scientists at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, offers compelling, cross-cultural evidence that common genetic factors underlie same-sex, sexual preference in men.

In southern Mexico, individuals who are biologically male and sexually attracted to men are known as muxes. They are recognized as a third gender: Muxe nguiiu tend to be masculine in their appearance and behavior, while muxe gunaa are feminine. In Western cultures, they would be considered gay men and transgender women, respectively.

Several correlates of male androphilia — biological males who are sexually attracted to men — have been shown across different cultures, which is suggestive of a common biological foundation among them. For example, the fraternal birth order effect—the phenomenon whereby male androphilia is predicted by having a higher number of biological older brothers—is evident in both Western and Samoan cultures.

Interestingly, in Western society, homosexual men, compared with heterosexual men, tend to recall higher levels of separation anxiety — the distress resulting from being separated from major attachment figures, like one’s primary caregiver or close family members. Research in Samoa has similarly demonstrated that third-gender fa’afafine—individuals who are feminine in appearance, biologically male, and attracted to men—also recall greater childhood separation anxiety when compared with heterosexual Samoan men. Thus, if a similar pattern regarding separation anxiety were to be found in a third, disparate culture—in the case, the Istmo region of Oaxaca, Mexico—it would add to the evidence that male androphilia has biological underpinnings.

The current study included 141 heterosexual women, 135 heterosexual men, and 178 muxes (61 muxe nguiiu and 117 muxe gunaa). Study participants were interviewed using a questionnaire that asked about separation anxiety; more specifically, distress and worry they experienced as a child in relation to being separated from a parental figure. Participants rated how true each question was for them when they were between the ages of 6 to 12 years old.

Muxes showed elevated rates of childhood separation anxiety when compared with heterosexual men, similar to what has been seen in gay men in Canada and fa’afafine in Samoa. There were also no differences in anxiety scores between women and muxe nguiiu or muxe gunaa, or between the two types of muxes.

When we consider possible explanations for these results, social mechanisms are unlikely, as previous research has shown that anxiety is heritable and parenting tends to be in response to children’s traits and behaviors, as opposed to the other way around. Biological mechanisms, however, offer a more compelling account. For instance, exposure to female-typical levels of sex steroid hormones in the prenatal environment are thought to “feminize” regions of the male brain that are related to sexual orientation, thereby influencing attachment and anxiety.

On top of this, studies in molecular genetics have shown that Xq28, a region located at the tip of the X chromosome, is involved in both the expression of anxiety and male androphilia. This suggests that common genetic factors may underlie the expression of both. Twin studies additionally point to genetic explanations as the underlying force for same-sex partner preference in men and neuroticism, a personality trait that is comparable to anxiety.

These findings suggest childhood separation anxiety may be a culturally universal correlate of androphilia in men. This has important implications for our understanding of children’s mental health conditions, as subclinical levels of separation anxiety, when intertwined with male androphilia, may represent a typical part of the developmental life course.

As it stands, sexual orientation research will continue to evoke widespread interest and controversy for the foreseeable future because it has the potential to be used—for better or worse—to uphold particular socio-political agendas. The moral acceptability of homosexuality has often hinged on the idea that same-sex desires are innate, immutable, and therefore, not a choice. This is clear when we think about how previous beliefs around homosexuality being learned were once used to justify (now discredited) attempts to change these desires.

The cross-cultural similarities evinced by the current study offer further proof that being gay is genetic, which is, in itself, an interesting finding. But we as a society should challenge the notion that sexual preferences must be non-volitional in order to be socially acceptable or safe from scrutiny. The etiology of homosexuality, biological or otherwise, should have no bearing on gay individuals’ right to equality.

Complete Article HERE!

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It’s time to end the taboo of sex and intimacy in care homes

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Imagine living in an aged care home. Now imagine your needs for touch and intimacy being overlooked. More than 500,000 individuals aged 65+ (double the population of Cardiff) live in care homes in Britain. Many could be missing out on needs and rights concerning intimacy and sexual activity because they appear to be “designed out” of policy and practice. The situation can be doubly complicated for lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans individuals who can feel obliged to go “back into the closet” and hide their identity when they enter care.

Little is known about intimacy and sexuality in this sub-sector of care. Residents are often assumed to be prudish and “past it”. Yet neglecting such needs can affect self-esteem and mental health.

A study by a research team for Older People’s Understandings of Sexuality (OPUS), based in Northwest England, involved residents, non-resident female spouses of residents with a dementia and 16 care staff. The study found individuals’ accounts more diverse and complicated than stereotypes of older people as asexual. Some study participants denied their sexuality. Others expressed nostalgia for something they considered as belonging in the past. Yet others still expressed an openness to sex and intimacy given the right conditions.

Insights

The most common story among study participants reflected the idea that older residents have moved past a life that features or is deserving of sex and intimacy. One male resident, aged 79, declared: “Nobody talks about it”. However, an 80-year-old female resident considered that some women residents might wish to continue sexual activity with the right person.

For spouses, cuddling and affection figured as basic human needs and could eclipse needs for sex. One spouse spoke about the importance of touch and holding hands to remind her partner that he was still loved and valued. Such gestures were vital in sustaining a relationship with a partner who had changed because of a dementia.

Care staff underlined the need for training to help them to assist residents meet their sexual and intimacy needs. Staff highlighted grey areas of consent within long-term relationships where one or both partners showed declining capacity. They also spoke about how expressions of sexuality posed ethical and legal dilemmas. For example, individuals affected by a dementia can project feelings towards another or receive such attention inappropriately. The challenge was to balance safeguarding welfare with individual needs and desires.

Some problems were literally built into care home environments and delivery of care. Most care homes consist of single rooms and provide few opportunities for people to sit together. A “no locked door” policy in one home caused one spouse to describe the situation as, “like living in a goldfish bowl”.

But not all accounts were problematic. Care staff wished to support the expression of sex, sexuality and intimacy needs but felt constrained by the need to safeguard. One manager described how their home managed this issue by placing curtains behind the frosted glass window in one room. This enabled a couple to enjoy each other’s company with privacy. Such simple changes suggest a more measured approach to safeguarding (not driven by anxiety over residents’ sexuality), which could ensure the privacy needed for intimacy.

Conclusions

Our study revealed a lack of awareness by staff of the need to meet sexuality and intimacy needs. Service providers need guidance on such needs and should provide it to staff. The information is out there and they can get the advice they need from the Care Quality Commission, Independent Longevity Centre, Local Government Association and the Royal College of Nursing.

Policies and practices should recognise resident diversity and avoid treating everyone the same. This approach risks reinforcing inequality and doesn’t meet the range of needs of very different residents. The views of black, working-class and LGBT individuals are commonly absent from research on ageing sexuality and service provision. One care worker spoke of how her home’s sexuality policy (a rare occurrence anyway) was effectively a “heterosexuality policy”. It may be harder for an older, working-class, black, female or trans-identified individual to express their sexuality needs compared to an older white, middle-class, heterosexual male.

Care homes need to provide awareness-raising events for staff and service users on this topic. These events should address stereotyping and ways of achieving a balance between enabling choices, desires, rights and safeguarding. There is also a need for nationally recognised training resources on these issues.

Older people should not be denied basic human rights. This policy vacuum could be so easily addressed over time and with appropriate training. What we need now is a bigger conversation about sex and intimacy in later life and what we can do to help bring about some simple changes in the care home system.

Complete Article HERE!

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